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list Jul 1 2021 Written by

Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021 – The Honorable Mentions (January – June)

Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021 - The Honorable Mentions

Elsewhere on this site, you can find a list of what we think are the best Hip Hop albums of 2021. This Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021 – The Honorable Mentions (January – Junelist is a selection of Hip Hop albums released in the first half of 2021 that (in some cases just barely) missed the cut. All kinds of Hip Hop styles on this list: some of these 2021 honorable mentions are traditional boom-bap, some neo-boom-bap/rap-noir, some alternative/experimental, some more mainstream-sounding – whatever category-label you can stick on any particular project, all albums here deserve attention for some reason.

Because our list with the best Hip Hop albums of 2021 and this list with the year’s honorable mentions are both works in progress, some of these honorable mentions might yet make the ‘best of’ list. In any case, all the albums listed here are well-worth checking out – peruse this list at your leisure, and no doubt you will discover a couple of Hip Hop projects JUST for you, albums you otherwise might have missed out on.

So here it is, in release date order: the best Hip Hop albums of 2021 – the honorable mentions (January – June).

Also read: The Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021  & Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021 – The Honorable Mentions (July – December)

Kool Taj The Gr8 - From The Park Bench Era

Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021 - The Honorable Mentions

From The Park Bench Era is the 3rd studio LP from New York emcee Kool Taj The Gr8, an album that embodies the spirit and aesthetics of 90’s Hip Hop culture and music. Hip Hop traditionalists better not sleep on From The Park Bench Era.

Released date: June 30, 2021. 

Irie-1 - La Tumba Collective

Cocareef Records is an indie label to watch based in New Jersey, with lots of dope releases that deserve attention. La Tumba Collective is a Cocareef release from California producer Irie-1. Irie-1’s sample-based boom-bap beats are deliciously dusty and grimy, and most of the host of emcees he recruited to rhyme over his instrumentals are nice too. Check out La Tumba Collective if you’re up for something new you would otherwise have slept on.

Released date: June 28, 2021. 

bRavenous - Flaunting Imperfections

Flaunting Imperfections, the fifth studio project from Halifax native and Calgary-based boom-bap emcee bRavenous is his first full-length since Between The Lines. – one of our favorite traditional boom-bap albums released in 2020Flaunting Imperfections is just as good, or even better.

bRavenous kills it with his cypher-developed rhyme style, and a bunch of guest emcees – Brand Nubian’s Sadat X most prominent among them – add extra flavor. Production from Uncle Fester, DK, Makemdef, Nocknock, Loophole, and Eng is dope too – nothing but delicious throwback boom-bap beats laced with well-placed cuts & scratches. If traditional-sounding boom-bap is your thing, Flaunting Imperfections is your album.

Release date: June 25, 2021. 

PremRock - Load Bearing Crow’s Feet

Load Bearing Crow’s Feet is an excellent project from New York-based artist PremRock, who had dope projects last year as a member of ShrapKnel and of Wrecking Crew. This solo album features all of PremRock’s regular collaborators and Backwoodz Studios artists like Zilla Rocca, Curly Castro, Elucid, AJ Suede, Henry Canyons, and Fielded. Production credits are shared between BrainOrchestra, Fresh Kils, Denmark Vessey, Small Professor, Willie Green, Messiah Musik, and PremRock himself. Load Bearing Crow’s Feet is a well-rounded effort, composed of compelling instrumentals and thoughtful bars. This is great music.

Release date: June 25, 2021. 

Whichcraft - Face The Mask

Whichcraft is an artist from Canandaigua, New York. His Face The Mask is a dope project, with one of our favorite tracks of the year on it. “Flourish” is ‘a shout-out to true B-Boys’ – incorporating parts of classic Dr. Dre and Boogie Down Production songs, and scratching in Roxanne Shante samples in a great way.

Release date: June 22, 2021. 

Kool Keith - Total Orgasm 6

Total Orgasm 6 is the sixth part in Kool Keith‘s underrated Total Orgasm mixtape series. We are Kool Keith fans, so we love this. Raw and unpolished beats that are mostly produced by Kool Keith (aka No.1 Producer) himself, and Kool Keith is in fine form with his lyrics too – which are probably only tolerable for those who have been exposed to his often bizarre stream-of-consciousness bars and hooks in high quantities before. Thematically this tape is typical Kool Keith: there’s lots of self-aggrandizement, dissing of wack emcees, and especially a lot of explicit sexual content – with Sex Style levels of Kool Keith type pornocore. Close to two-and-a-half hours of music – Total Orgasm 6 is value for money and a must for Kool Keith aficionados at least.

Release date: June 21, 2021. 

Bolt Seminar - Bolt Seminar

Bolt Seminar is a self-titled collaborative album from Swiss producer John Sarastro and Brooklyn-based emcee Dell Wells. Bolt Seminar offers 40 minutes of edgy, slightly experimental boom-bap – reminiscent of the kind of Hip Hop that was released on El-P‘s iconic Def Jux label. Let’s hope this collaboration isn’t a one-off – we’d sure like to hear more Bolt Seminar music.

Release date: June 20, 2021. 

MIKE - Disco!

Bronx-based rapper MIKE has been flying under most people’s radars for a while now, maybe Disco! will be the project that gives him a little more of the deserved spotlight. Following strong albums such as 2020’s Weight Of The World and 2019’s Tears Of Joy, 2021’s Disco! is a confirmation of MIKE’s talent and a strengthening of his position as one of the leading artists in the lo-fi subgenre of Hip Hop.

MIKE’s experimental jazzy grooves (self-produced under his DJ Blackpower alias) and his monotone slow-flows on Disco! captivate, leaving the listener with something of an upbeat feeling despite the murkiness of the soundscapes and MIKE’s mournful tone. As always his music is an acquired taste, but Disco! is more accessible than some of his other works and feels like a pivotal work for MIKE – one that should open the door to wider recognition.

Release date: June 21, 2021. 

ULTRA BEAST - Put'Cha Teeth On It

Put’Cha Teeth On It is the 3rd full-length album from 4-IZE & Señor KAOS as ULTRA BEAST. In Hip Hop a “Biter” is a term used to describe a person who copies someone else’s style or technique. In 2021 with a lack of creativity and originality, artists are encouraged to be like whoever has the most influence. With production from the likes of; 9th Wonder, Six Figga Digga, D.R.U.G.S Beats, Illastrate, Team MFN, Floyd the Locsmif, plus features by RJ Payne, Daylyt, Wordsworth, Punchline, Headkrack, Grey PBD, Scar, Binkis Recs, Legendary Baller, Yamin Semali, Number 2, and Alexander Blane, Ultra Beast invites everyone to take a bite of this champion level Hip Hop. For true lovers of neck-breaking beats and thought-provoking lyricism, this new album is definitely something to enhance your taste level.

Release date: June 17, 2021. 

Datkid & Illinformed - WAKMO

Datkid and Illformed are fixtures in the British underground Hip Hop scene.  This collaboration is a solid release from start to finish, a must-listen for fans of that raw boom-bap sound.

Release date: June 17, 2021. 

RJ Payne - Leatherface 3: There Will Be Blood

This latest 12-track offering from Philadelphia’s prolific underground spitter RJ Payne is one of his best yet. Leatherface 3: There Will Be Blood features appearances from Redman, Havoc, Ras Kass, Inspectah Deck, Flee Lord, Ransom & more, and hard-as-nails bars from RJ Payne himself. Drawing inspiration from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre films, Payne’s alter ego of Leatherface is a perfect embodiment of his merciless rhymes and punchlines, which are bolstered even further by the dark and grimy production.

Release date: June 15, 2021. 

Azariah - Phase II: The Return Of Sloppy Smooth

Rochester, NY emcee Azariah (of Young Black And Gifted) returns with Phase II: The Return Of Sloppy Smooth – a strong 13-track album entirely produced by up and coming producer Laddie. Mav (Of Da Cloth), Jae Hussle, and feature king Planet Asia make appearances on what is a must-listen for fans of atmospheric underground Hip Hop.

Release date: June 11, 2021.

Your Old Droog - Time

Ukrainian-American producer/emcee Your Old droog has garnered a strong following since he debuted in 2014, Time is his 7th full-length solo project and it is one of his best projects yet. Production is strong and Your Old Droog’s lyricism is on point – his flow is dope as always and his personal bars are worth listening to. Time features guest appearances from Aesop Rock, eLZhi, Blu, Mick Jenkins, Wiki, and MF DOOM. On the production side, Droog got some assistance from Quelle Chris and 88-Keys, among others. “Dropout Boogie” with a bittersweet MF DOOM verse is a highlight, as are tracks such as “The Magic Watch”, “Field Of Dreams” (with Aesop Rock and Elzhi), “One Move”(with Blu and Mick Jenkins), and “Madson Ave”.

Release date: June 11, 2021.

Larry June - Orange Print

Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021 - The Honorable Mentions (January - June)

Orange Pint is another quality release from prolific Bay Area rapper Larry June, who has been consistently putting out super chill West Coast Hip Hop for a couple of years now. “Tangible Assets”, “Wait On Me”, “Grand National Chronicles”, “You Gotta”, “Iced Coffee” – plenty of dope tracks on Orange Pint.

Release date: June 11, 2021

Bobby Sessions - Manifest

Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021 - The Honorable Mentions (January - June)

Dallas-native Bobby Sessions’ official debut studio album is NICE. Manifest is jam-packed with powerful lyrics, animated flows & deliveries, slick beats, and great features (Rick Ross, Benny the Butcher, Freddie Gibbs, Hollyhood Bay Bay, and Lecrae are featured on the album).  “Cog In The Machine”, “Penthouse Prayers”, “Gold Rolex”, and our favorite “Distractions Of The Flesh” are stand-outs, but this 12 track album is consistent as f, while being varied at the same time – a couple of tracks with mainstream appeal, a few more experimental ones, and some underground bangers make up the well-sequenced tracklist. Bobby Session’s writing credits on Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé’s 2020 summer hit “Savage”, won him a Grammy, with Manifest he may be on track for a second one.

Release date: June 11, 2021.

Sankofa - BLKTCHP

“Boom-bap with wicked lyrics making the tunes slap.” From storytelling to tributes to the forefathers who laid it down, to straight-up bangers, to life measured, Sankofa got you covered.

Sankofa is an emcee from Fort Wayne, Indiana, and BLKCHP is his second dope release of the year, following The Most Delicious Gold, which dropped in March. Sankofa is nothing if not consistent – BLKCHP is another presentation of soulful boom-bap, with great sampling choices and mature, relatable lyrics – this time around a bit darker than on his previous releases. Go check out BLKCHP – you will not regret it.

Release date: June 7, 2021.

Planet Asia - Holy Water

Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021 - The Honorable Mentions (January - June)

Veteran emcee Planet Asia is one of the most prolific artists in underground Hip Hop these days. He is featured on everybody’s albums, and he keeps dropping solo and collaborative projects steadily too. Holy Water is another collabo with Los Angeles-based producer duo DirtyDiggs, and it’s another winner. Great beats and great bars – this is a great project.

Release date: June 4, 2021.

Kool Keith - Keith's Salon

[Written with a libidinal urgency that has come to characterize Kool Keith’s legendary lyricism, Keith’s Salon explores our current obsessions with luxury, beauty, and notoriety. But rather than fetishize the beautiful dum-dums who walk red carpets in black Prada gowns, Kool Keith’s most recent studio album shifts our attention to the work and workers that underpin our fantasies of American excess and the good life. As such, the album is also a timely meditation, during quarantine, on the economic precarity many of us now find ourselves in. Having doubled-up with Triple Parked, the production team of avant-techno maven Bruno Pronsato and Benjamin Jay, Keith’s Salon moves between halcyon sonics and atonal warlord dystopia, while keeping beats minimal for Kool Keith to spread extra ketchup on the hamburger. An album at once topical and futuristic, lush and bizarre, Keith’s Salon is about the business of making people beautiful. It’s time to work.]

This album blurb tells you something about Keith’s Salon, Kool Keith’s umpteenth project. Whether you like this album or not will depend entirely on your level of Kool Keith tolerance. If you can’t get with his earlier work, or if you’re new to his music, you will most likely not care for Keith’s Salon, probably not even understand what’s going on. Long-time Kool Keith followers will be able to appreciate this effort, though. If (like HHGA) you’ve been with him from the start, you will be attuned to his free-associative ramblings and his crazy hooks, and you will find plenty to enjoy here.

The beats on Keith’s Salon are far from the worst Kool Keith ever got to work with, but they’re not the best either, unfortunately. Kool Keith’s best albums are those where his bizarre genius was successfully harnessed by producers who understood how to control him – Ultramagnetic’s Ced Gee for example, or Kutmasta Kurt, and Dan The Automator. Keith’s Salon is a must for Kool Keith aficionados of course, but others can give it a miss – while this is far from Kool Keith’s worst, it is not one of Kool Keith’s 25 best albums. If you’re a Kool Keith noob you’d better leave off Keith’s Salon for now, instead start here and work your way up the list.

Release date: June 4, 2021.

Peter Rosenberg - Real Late

For his debut album, Real Late, Hot 97 DJ and morning host Peter Rosenberg recruited some of the biggest names in Hip Hop to take care of the vocals. Westside Gunn, Styles P, Ransom, Smoke DZA, Flee Lord, Stove God Cooks, Roc Marciano, Jay NiCE, Eto, Method Man, Raekwon, Willie the Kid, Meyhem Lauren, Ghostface Killah, Crimeapple, Jim Jones, Rasheed Chappell, 2nd Generation Wu, Fly Anakin, Nickelus F, Homeboy Sandman, and Vel the Wonder – that’s an impressive roster.

For a 13-track, 35-minute project such a deep line-up is a bit much. Like all such tightly packed compilation-like projects Real Late is kind of a mixed bag – but the positives far outweigh the negatives. The beats are enjoyable for the most part, and most of the guests come through with solid bars and strong performances.

Release date: June 4, 2021.

The Good People - The Greater Good

The Good People’s last full-length Good For Nuthin’ was one of our favorite albums of 2019The Greater Good is just as good. Where Good For Nuthin’ was a 100% throwback record, The Greater Good is more rounded musically even if the beats, cuts & scratches, and flows are still firmly 90s-centric. A bunch of features from the likes of Lords of the Underground, DJ C-Reality, DJ Ace, Mikey D, Tone Spliff, Craig G, Shabaam Sahdeeq, Skanks the Rap Martyr, DJ Eclipse, John Jigg$, Mouf, Rockwelz, Nam Nitty, and Rasheed Chappell help round out what is another solid The Good People record. The wordplay is dope as is the jazzy boom-bap production – this LP is a must-listen for fans of that traditional Hip Hop sound.

Release date: June 4, 2021.

Skanks The Rap Martyr - M.O.S.T. (Minister Of Severe Torture)

Brooklyn’s underground veteran Skanks The Rap Martyr rarely misses, and with M.O.S.T. (Minister Of Severe Torture) he dropped another solid presentation composed of killer bars and strong boom-bap production.

Release date: June 4, 2021.

Rome Streetz & ANKHLEJOHN - Genesis 1:27

At this point, both Rome Streetz and ANKHLEJOHN can be counted among the underground elites. ANKHLEJOHN has been stringing together a series of dope releases, with a benchmark release in 2018: Van Ghost with Big Ghost Ltd is one of the absolute best projects in the ‘rap-noir’ niche that was pioneered by the likes of Roc Marciano and the Griselda family. Rome Streetz always kills it with his features and his Death & The Magician collaborative album with DJ Muggs is one of the best projects released this year.

Genesis 1:27 offers more of the same of what we come to expect from these two – in a good way. This is top-tier noir street rap, the biggest knock against this project is that it’s too short at just over 30 minutes, with a little more substance to it Genesis 1:27 would have ranked higher on this list.

Release date: June 1, 2021.

Uptown XO - Culture Over Corporate Vol III

One of DC’s most innovative and enduring artists, Uptown XO has established himself locally and nationally with inspirational songs that touch on hard issues from family and culture to race and gentrification. 

Uptown XO is best known for being one-third of Diamond District, the underrated Washington DC trio he is part of together with Oddisee & yU. Of course, Oddisee is DD’s highest-profile member with a couple of sleeper classics on his name (The Good Fight (2015) and Tangible Dream (2017) are just two of the gems Oddisee dropped in the 2010s). Diamond District has two albums – In The Ruff (2009) and March On Washington (2014) that need to be in your collection if you appreciate quality Hip Hop. As a solo artist, Uptown XO released a number of dope projects over the years, his official solo debut Colour De Grey (2013) arguably the most noteworthy.

Culture Over Corporate Vol III – produced in its entirety by Oddisee – is the best of this three-part series. The album runs for 32 minutes and holds 9 tracks – on such a short project there’s no room for error. Fortunately, all 9 tracks are pretty good. Dope soulful beats, fine emceeing, and thought-provoking lyrics throughout – the biggest complaint is the album’s brevity, it could have done with a couple more tracks. That said, Culture Over Corporate Vol III offers a tight package of grown-man Hip Hop that deserves your attention.

Release date: May 31, 2021.

Happy Tooth - The Laughter's Rehearsed

Columbus-based artist Happy Tooth is half of a duo that dropped one of the best left-field Hip Hop albums of last year: Dug & Happy Tooth’s The Signal Glittering Inside The Storm. For The Laughter’s Rehearsed Happy Tooth teamed up with producer Bum Theory, and the result is another eclectic mix of musical and lyrical styles. Bum Theory deftly incorporates indie-rock, soul, and funk influences into his beats and Happy Tooth navigates the soundscapes with lots of versatility – going from rapping to singing to spoken-word without missing a beat. This project is not for everyone, but those with a taste for an alternative Hip Hop sound will be well pleased with The Laughter’s Rehearsed.

Release date: May 31, 2021.

Messiah Key - Belief

Messiah Key is a four-piece alt Hip Hop band from Brighton and Nottingham England UK. Belief is Messiah Key’s first album, written and recorded separately during the Covid pandemic. Belief is a dope piece of music that holds great promise for future Messiah Key projects – go check this one out if you’re up for something new you would otherwise miss out on.

Release date: May 31, 2021. 

Wounded Buffalo Beats - Black Magic & Horns

Wounded Buffalo Beats is a producer from the UK, and for Black Magic & Horns he enlisted the likes of Craig G, Masta Ace, Jus Allah, El Da Sensei, Wordsworth, Rah Digga, Pacewon, Fatlip, and others to rhyme over his atmospheric boom-bap beats. Nothing special maybe, but solid all the way through.

Release date: May 29, 2021

Penpals - II: The True Sequel

PENPALS are a trio from NYC, consisting of wordsmiths Rapswell and Bobby Nobleand rounded out by the musical savant Squires, who crafts the production landscapes.  The three emerged on the scene with 2015’s self-titled PENPALS album, II: The True Sequel is an excellent follow-up. The dusty 90s-centric beats are dope as f and the rhyming is on point too – in no small part thanks to some great features by underground heavy-hitters such as ANKHLEJOHN, Quelle Chris, and billy woods (among others). Don’t sleep on Penpals.

Release date: May 28, 2021.

BVA - Lex Neville

Lex Neville is a 16 track album by Four Owls emcee BVA, produced by Leaf Dog and Illinformed with guest verses from Datkid, Jack Jetson, King Kashmere, Leaf Dog, Smellington Piff, and Verb T, and with cuts by Jazz T. Anyone familiar with the artists involved will know to expect a serving of 90s-centric boom-bap of the highest quality. Lex Neville doesn’t disappoint – this is a great album with atmospheric production and killer bars, a must for traditional boom-bap fans.

Release date: May 28, 2021.

Big Pokey - Sensei

Houston’s veteran emcee and original Screwed Up Click member Big Pokey’s Sensei is his first release since Evacuation Notice of eight years ago. Sensei offers a potent blend of 90s-centric bass-heavy Dirty South Hip Hop and modern-day rap with mainstream/trap sensibilities. Features from the likes of Chamillionaire, Devin the Dude, and many others add extra flavor, but Big Pokey maintains a firm grip on things and delivers an album worth of attention with Sensei. 

Release date: May 28, 2021. 

DMX - Exodus

DMX’s untimely death on April 9th of 2021 happened just as he was completing work on his eighth album, Exodus – his first Def Jam release since 2003’s Grand Champ. Allegedly Exodus was nearly finished when DMX died, but it feels like a posthumous project very much regardless – an album cobbled together without the artist’s final say. Exodus has its moments – “Bath Salt” with (old?) guest verses from Jay-Z and Nas is a dope track, as are “Hood Letter” with the Gridelda family, “That’s My Dog” with The LOX, “Dogs Out” with Lil Wayne (who surprisingly comes with the strongest guest appearance of the album), and especially the heartfelt “Letter To My Son” – but the album also has problems.

The biggest problem with Exodus is the lazy and uninspired production from Swizz Beats, DMX’s longtime collaborator and friend who ended up finishing the album (with some input from others such as DJ Premier and Kanye West). Enough big names were involved on the production side, but none of them brought their A-game. Also, there are WAY too many features, and not all of them good. Alicia Keys has a limp contribution, people like U2’s Bono, and Moneybagg Yo (whose appearance was the only part of the album DMX did not hear before his death, maybe not coincidentally on the weakest song of the album) shouldn’t be on a DMX album, and there are others still that add nothing good to the album – it kind of feels like DMX is a recurring guest on a compilation album, almost being drowned out by all the other artists present. There’s just not enough DMX here.

But despite its faults, Exodus is a moving final DMX chapter, a posthumous album that wasn’t supposed to be posthumous at all – adding to the bittersweetness of it all. At least the album signifies a better fitting finale to a troubled career than his last couple of releases – the unofficial and unauthorized Redemption Of The Beast (2015) and the disappointing The Undisputed (2012) – would have done. DMX’s gruff voice will be missed.

Release date: May 28, 2021.

Benny The Butcher & 38 Spesh - Trust The Sopranos

This is not the best Griselda-adjacent project around, but it’s decent enough. At 31 minutes and with guest appearances from Elcamino, Klass Murda, Ransom, Che Noir, Ampichino, Heem, Rick Hyde, and Chase Fetti Trust The Sopranos feels kind of crowded, more like a compilation with not enough of Benny. The production is kind of ‘soft’, pop-oriented in places even (also because of the hooks) – it’s not all bad, but we’d prefer a more gritty sound for this set of emcees. Che Noir has two appearances, and she’s the star of Trust The Sopranos – outshining Benny and everyone else effortlessly. Best track: “Blue Money”.

Release date: May 21, 2021. 

Navy Blue - Navy's Reprise

Comforting and enjoyable. Navy’s Reprise is a smooth listen, one you can’t go wrong with.

Release date: May 21, 2021. 

Knowledge The Pirate - Hidden Treasures

Knowledge The Pirate - Hidden Treasures

Veteran emcee Knowledge The Pirate’s 3rd full-length album Hidden Treasures is a collaboration with producer E.L.E.M.E.N.T. (and Roc Marciano who crafted the beats for one track) and features appearances by Stove God Cooks, Rome Streetz, and Jr. Catz. E.L.E.M.E.N.T. cooked up a potent batch of soul-saturated musical backdrops for Knowledge The Pirate’s street-tales to shine. Lots of similar projects out these days, but both E.L.E.M.E.N.T. and Knowledge The Pirate are better than most – fans of that Griselda sound should not sleep on Hidden Treasures.

Release date: May 17, 2021.

J. Cole - The Off-Season

J. Cole - The Off-Season

J. Cole’s long-awaited sixth studio album turned out to be underwhelming. There’s little really wrong with The Off-Season (even if we don’t like the trap beats and flows on some of the songs, nor J. Cole’s autotune use), but it’s all kind of bland – in typical J. Cole fashion. No doubt J. Cole stans will declare it AOTY, other Hip Hop listeners will probably be less enthusiastic.

Release date: May 14, 2021. 

Vic Spencer - Legend Laws Of Power

Legends Laws of Power is not Vic Spencer’s best release of the year (we prefer Psychological Cheat Sheet 2), but it is another solid outing from the Chicago rapper. Dope production from Original Super Legend, and a killer feature from Roc Marciano too.

Release date: May 14, 2021. 

Swing Dee Diablo - King Of Skulls

Chicago’s horrorcore rapper Swing Dee Diablo dropped a surprisingly strong album with King Of Skulls. Dark but humorous murder bars contrast interestingly with upbeat deep-south-like bass-heavy beats that hold just a touch of menace and eeriness. Killer cover art too.

Release date: May 14, 2021. 

Asun Eastwood & Finn - The S.O.U.L.

Prolific Toronto emcee Asun Eastwood’s third full-length release of the year is his best yet, thanks to the immaculate production by Finn, one of the hottest producers in the underground right now. Asun Eastwood’s project with The Twinning – Prophecy Is My Present – which dropped last February was solid, as was 98 Mileshis collabo with Sibbs Rocc and M.A.V.

The S.O.U.L. features contributions from Ill Conscious, Daniel Son, Rigz, SLNC, Flee Lord, Saipher Soze, Family Gang Black, and M.A.V. – who all come with hard street raps to match the ones from Asun Eastwood. Dope bars all around, but it’s Finn’s production that elevates this project to the next level – his atmospheric mid-tempo boom-bap (90s-centric but with modern-day sensibilities) is top level. Asun Eastwood has been working hard at putting together an excellent catalog, and with The S.O.U.L. he takes another step ahead.

Release date: May 14, 2021. 

Gowe - Jazznight

Gordon Tsai, better known by his stage name Gowe, is a Korean-American Hip Hop artist from Seattle, Washington. To date, he has released two full-length albums and two EPs as a solo musician. Jazznight is his third full-length album, and his best yet. An a-typical Hip Hop release owing to its jazz-flavored musicality, Jazznight is an authentic and stylish piece of music with smooth instrumentals crafted by Sam Ock, and thoughtful vocals from Gowe, and guests like NAK, Jennifer Chung, ESAE, Uzuhan, postmoderndisco, and Mickey Cho.

Release date: May 14, 2021. 

Fatt Father - Soccer Dad

Soccer Dad is the fifth full-length project (not counting his mixtapes) from Detroit-based emcee Fatt Father. Soccer Dad is a great album, with banging beats (all crafted by Foul Mouth) and strong lyricism – Fatt Father’s flow is dope and his content is worth listening to.

Release date: May 14, 2021. 

Akai Solo & Navy Blue - True Sky

Hypnotic, murky, lo-fi beats crafted by Navy Blue and abstract stream-of-consciousness bars and erratic flows from Akai Solo. True Sky holds some of the best instrumentals Navy Blue ever created, and if you can get with Akai Solo’s style of rapping you should find plenty to enjoy here. Akai Solo’s style is reminiscent of billy woods in many ways – a good thing of course. This kind of left-field Hip Hop is not for everyone, but people familiar with either one of these artists will know what to expect.

Release date: May 13, 2021. 

Sleep Sinatra - DIVINENATION

Sleep Sinatra’s second full-length of the year is another strong effort. Building on the strengths of his March release of Sleep Gloriously, DIVINENATION has the prolific Lincoln, Nebraska emcee revealing more of his life experiences and inner thoughts, this time over self-produced boom-bap beats, soulful and mellow.

Release date: May 7, 2021. 

DRE Colombian Raw - PLOMO

With PLOMO New Jersey’s DRE Colombian Raw adds another dope project to his catalog. PLOMO offers atmospheric boom-bap beats and hard street raps from DRE Colombian Raw and guests G Fam Black, Meph Luciano, Ca$ablanca, Paranormal, FatSock Nickels, Fat Pockets, Whata Mess, L.R.C. and M.I.L.O. This sub-genre is suffering from over-saturation, but DRE Colombian Raw is definitely part of the better artists in the rap-noir niche.

Release date: May 7, 2021. 

Words Of Phrase - Humbly Worded

Words Of Phrase is a Maine-based artist, and his Humbly Worded is an enjoyable project. Words Of Phrase is not a natural emcee, but his pen game is solid, and his flow and delivery go well with Jay Humble’s 90s-centric beats.

Release date: May 7, 2021.

Noyz82 - Blade Runner Basquiat

Blade Runner Basquiat is a great project that will pass way under most people’s radars, unfortunately. This is one of today’s many independently released projects that are suffering from a total lack of marketing and promotion – even the artists themselves sometimes don’t seem to be making much of an effort to get their music noticed. You will not find projects like this one if you’re not willing to dig deep. NYC-based rapper/producer Noyz82 almost doesn’t have much of an online presence, so it’s up to people to stumble upon his Bandcamp page. Often it’s not a bad thing music is hard to find, but in this case, it’s a shame – Blade Runner Basquiat is way too good to stay unnoticed.

Blade Runner Basquiat is Noyz82’s first full-length presentation, about which he stated: “10 songs dealing with exposing my demons, flaws, lamenting on my successes and failures as a human…all while being a narcissistic pompous a**hole talking the biggest sh*t in the only way I know how.” Noyz82’s bars and flows are dope enough, but it’s his beats that steal the show here – the production on Blade Runner Basquiat is superb. Deliciously dark and atmospheric, with bass-heavy beats and slightly experimental vibes – Noyz82 comes with a unique own sound you shouldn’t sleep on.

Release date: May 7, 2021. 

ALLBLACK - TY4FWM

Oakland rapper ALLBLACK’s 14-track project TY4FWM is a solid presentation of new-school West Coast Hip Hop – forgettable (mostly dumb and sometimes cringe-worthy) lyrics – but these summertime beats do the job.

Release date: May 7, 2021. 

K.A.A.N. - KAIZEN

Maryland rapper K.A.A.N.’s umpteenth release in this last couple of years is one of his best, with positively themed concepts and meaningful lyrics, and with extra flavor added by guests like R.A. The Rugged Man, A-F-R-O, Locksmith, Blu, and Deca. KAIZEN is too short a just over 30-minutes, but most tracks on this project are strong: “Right Now”, “Rerun” (with R.A. The Rugged Man), “Resonate”, “D.I.Y.”. “Interstellar” (with Deca), and “The Great Illusion” all are memorable K.A.A.N. songs.

Release date: May 7, 2021. 

Slik Jack & Sqreeb - The Kingpin Project

Slik Jack and Sqreeb are a Montreal-based emcee and producer duo, The Kingpin Project is their fourth collaborative project in two years. Sharp and crisp boom-bap percussions crafted by Sqreeb provide a perfect backdrop for Slik Jack’s dope wordplay – on The Kingpin Project Slik Jack is embodying Marvel Comics’ supervillain ‘Kingpin’, with some modern twists on the character. The album’s cover art (front and back) is pretty awesome too – this is a well-rounded project in all aspects.

Release date: April 30, 2021. 

Sac One - Duke City Assassin

Duke City Assassin by Alberquerque-based emcee Sa Roc is one of the hundreds of Hip Hop releases that drop these days only to escape everyone’s attention. This is one that deserves a listen though. Solid boom-bap instrumentals and lyrics with attitude by Sac One and guests like Cappadonna and Streetlife, among others.

Release date: April 30, 2021. 

Young Deuces - All I Ever Wanted Was An Opportunity

Young Deuces - All I Ever Wanted Was An Opportunity

Milwaukee emcee Young Deuces’ third album All I Ever Wanted Was An Opportunity, is what he calls the soundtrack of his life. The album walks you through the path of Young Deuces and him facing his flaws, his self-doubts, his wins, his highs, and his lows all in one. All I Ever Wanted Was An Opportunity is fully produced by K. Mel Beatz and has features from Grafh,  Michael Christmas, Dear Silas, Burgie Streetz, Eazy Hayes & Princess Beverly Ann.

All I Ever Wanted Was An Opportunity is a solid effort, with strong performances from Young Deuces, backed by instrumentals and hooks with mainstream appeal effectively mixed with atmospheric 90s-centric boom-bap beats.

Release date: April 30, 2021. 

Configa & DJ Views - The Year After

British producer Configa knows what he is doing. He was responsible for the beats on two of 2020’s best Hip Hop albums – Arrested Development’s Don’t Fight Your Demons and his Forward Future collaboration with Jahi – and in 2021 he continues his winning streak with The Year After.

For The Year After Configa teamed up with DJ Views (each producing 6 of the 12 tracks on the album), and they recruited a busload of top-caliber emcees to take care of the vocals on what is one of the best 90s-centric boom-bap projects of the year. Ras Kass, Speech (of Arrested Development), Chino XL, Craig G, Pacewon, Akrobatik, Ruste Juxx, Planet Asia, Nine, El Da Sensei, Termanology, and Solemn Brigham make appearances – among others. “Mic Domination”, “Galactic Rap”, “Funeral March” (with epic bars from the unbeatable Chino XL), “Different Timezones”, and “Word Science” are highlights, but The Year After is an entirely consistent presentation. Banging boom-bap beats, sharp cuts & scratches, and lyrical fire – with The Year After Configa and DJ Views knocked it out of the park.

Release date: April 30, 2021. 

Mephux, SoundLord, Zaza God & LordMobb - The Most High

Nothing wrong with The Most High – Mephux and Soundlord cooked up a solid batch of dark boom-bap instrumentals (with some trap beats thrown in the mix here and there) and LordMobb and Zaza God’s street rhymes suffice. It’s just nothing you haven’t heard before a hundred times already by now, there’s little here to make The Most High stand out from the crowd. Fans of the Griselda attitude and sound will find plenty of enjoyment here though.

Release date: April 30, 2021. 

Datkid & Skinzmann - Sleepless In Pinhoe

Sleepless In Pinhoe is an excellent collaborative album from prolific underground emcee Datkid and producer Skinzmann. Solid content and a varied platter of boom-bap and grime-like beats – this is a strong album, one of the many to come out of the British underground this year.

Release date: April 26, 2021. 

Supreme Cerebral & Eloh Kush - Clark Connoisseurs 2

Supreme Cerebral (LA) comes together once again with Eloh Kush (NJ) to bring you the second installment of their Clark Connoisseurs collaboration. Influenced once again by the London-based company Clarks signature shoe the Wallabee, these two come together perfectly for what is just as potent of an album as their first go-round. This time the two emcees connect with the likes of Blu, Big Twins, Napoleon Da Legend, Yasin & last time collaborator Redd (Vanguard).

Smooth, soulful 90s-centric boom-bap beats, and hard bars – this is a dope project.

Release date: April 23, 2021. 

Mike Rovone - I Smoke Herb. I Make Music.

Chicago producer/emcee Mike Rovone is not the best rapper around, but the throwback beats, cuts & scratches, and samples he crafted for this project are pretty great. I Smoke Herb I Make Music is well worth checking out.

Release date: April 20, 2021. 

Krayzie Bone - Leaves Of Legends

Prolific Bone Thugs N Harmony rapper Krayzie Bone’s Leaves Of Legends is better than most of his recent releases. Nothing you haven’t heard before: the lyrical content is about smoking weed and the musical backdrops are of the laidback g-funk style we know from Krayzie Bone. But even if the subject matter is played out and the beats are nothing special, the album is quite an enjoyable listen, smooth and laidback. A must for BTNH fans at the very least.

Release date: April 20, 2021. 

Snoop Dogg - From Tha Streets 2 Tha Suites

On ‘International Weed Day’ Snoop Dogg dropped his 18th studio album, and what do you know – it’s not bad at all, unlike most of Snoop Dogg’s recent (and not-so-recent) releases. It’s been a while since Uncle Snoop released a really consistent album, and From Tha Streets 2 Tha Suites isn’t that album either, but this one is solid Snoop – admittedly with no real stand-outs, but with no real throw-away tracks either. Sure, some songs are stronger than others – “Gang Signs” is the best song with its phat bassline and catchy hook, and “CEO”, and “Get Yo Bread” are among the stronger tracks too, while “Say It Witcha Booty” and a couple of others are more questionable. From Tha Streets 2 Tha Suites is kind of short at 35 minutes and 10 tracks, and lightweight in its cliched subject matter, but the funked-out trunk-rattling beats knock and the overall mellow summertime vibe of this project is fun. This Snoop Dogg project is forgettable but mostly enjoyable – worth a listen.

Release date: April 20, 2021

Ilajide - Code 200

Ilajide - Code 200

Detroit producer/emcee Ilajide is best-known for being a Clear Soul Forces – the now-defunct 4-man crew who dropped a couple of great projects over the years, their best album Gold PP7s (2013) is a low-key classic. Clear Soul Forces always came off as a mix of iconic crews like The Pharcyde, A Tribe Called Quest, and Freestyle Fellowship – straight lyricists projecting positive vibes with quirky twists. As a solo artist, Ilajide is no different. Code 200 is a dope little project – Ilajide’s wordplay is entertaining, and his off-center beats are dope.

Release date: April 20, 2021

Eric Bobo & Stu Bangas - Empires

Empires is a collaboration between Cypress Hill percussionist Eric Bobo from Los Angeles and underground producer Stu Bangas from Boston – with an incredible list of feature artists: Mr. Lif, DJ Rhettmatic, Vinnie Paz, RJ Payne, Xzibit, B-Real, Pharoahe Monch, Psycho Les, DJ Ethos, Khujo Goodie, Lonnie Lyle, The Wordsmith, Rob Markman, Blacastan, Nowaah The Flood, Demrick Brevi, Reverie, Lord Goat, Krazy Race, Rakaa Iriscience, Blu, Apathy, Celph Titled, Ill Bill, OC, Sick Jacken, Huero Diablo, and Mercy Collazo all make appearances.

Stu Bangas is renowned for his raw, bass-heavy boom-bap beats, while Eric Bobo’s signature sound is Latin-flavored percussions – this East Coast/West Coast mix of styles comes off beautifully here. The album starts off with a bang with the title track “Empires” (with Mr. Lif & DJ Rhettmatic) and doesn’t let up. “Chemtrails” (with Vinnie Paz, RJ Payne & Xzibit) is a dope track, arguably the album’s best example for the seamless fit of Stu Bangas’ East Coast boom-bap and Eric Bobo’s West Coast percussions. “Total Kaos” (with Psycho Les and DJ Ethos), “No Survivors” (with Blacastan & Nowaah The Flood), “Another One For The Books” (with Celph Titled and Apathy), and “Street Smarts” (with Ill Bill and OC) are other stand-outs. Despite a couple of less memorable tracks in the middle of the tracklist, Empires is a dope collaboration between two producers who admirably managed to blend their own musical aesthetics into a cohesive new sound.

Release date: April 20, 2021. 

Khrysis - The Hour Of Khrysis

Khrysis is a producer/emcee from Durham, North Carolina who is signed to Grammy Award-winning super producer 9th Wonder’s Jamla Records, and one of seven producers on the labels production team The Soul Council. The Hour Of Khrysis is very much a producer’s album, but it has rhymes from Khrysis himself too – along with an impressive roster of guest emcees: De La Soul, Pharoahe Monch, Busta Rhymes, Del The Funky Homosapien, Rapsody, Sa-Roc, Evidence, Camp Lo’s Geechi Suede, and Chi Ali (remember him?) all make appearances, among others.

Over the years Khrysis has built a strong body of work with his production work for other artists, and he has a solid catalog with solo work too. His 2018 collaboration with Detroit’s Elzhi (Jericho Jackson) still is our favorite Khrysis project, The Hour Of Khrysis comes close though. “Mr. Big Mouf Pt II” with De La Soul, “Negro Spiritual” with Busta Rhymes & Pharoahe Monch, “The Disrespect” with Rapsody & Sa-Roc, and “Keep Walking On” with Del are the stand-outs, but this is a solid album from start to finish – with dope vocals for the most part and a varied array of soulful boom-bap beats.

Release date: April 19, 2021. 

DA Donnieboy - Dreaming Azure

DA Donnieboy is another emcee repping Detroit, his Dreaming Azure LP is a well-rounded project, with thoughtful bars and solid production.

Release date; April 16, 2021.

Conway The Machine - La Maquina

La Maquina is Conway The Machine’s second full-length of the year, following If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed, a collaboration with Big Ghost Ltd. Guests on La Maquina include Conway’s Drumwork signees Jae Skeese and 7xvethegenius, his Griselda labelmates Westside Gunn and Benny the Butcher, as well as 2 Chainz, J.I.D., and Ludacris – the last two appearing on the album’s lead single “Scatter Brain”. La Maquina features production from Don Cannon, The Alchemist, Murda Beatz, frequent collaborator Daringer, and others.

Westside Gunn is the business-brain of the Griselda family unit, and Benny The Butcher the best emcee – but Conway is the most consistent of the three: La Maquina is yet another solid outing from Conway, even if it has some meh trap-flavored tracks on it. While Conway’s last project with Big Ghost Ltd. had him going over the typical dusty Griselda type of production, on La Maquina Conway opted for going for a more commercial sound, building on the versatility showcased on last year’s From King to A GOD.

Considering Conway standards, La Maquina has some trendier-as-usual production on a couple of songs – borderline trap tracks like “KD” and “Scatter Brain” are cases in point, those two are among the weaker songs on the album, along with a meandering quasi pop-tune like “Had To Hustle”. Plenty of strong tracks too though: stand-outs include “Bruiser Body”, “Blood Roses”, “200 Pies”, and especially “Sister Abigail” – the absolute highlight of this album.

Overall, while this isn’t the best Griselda project, there’s enough to enjoy on La Maquina. Whether you love it or not will most likely depend on your tolerance level for the 4 or 5 commercial-sounding tracks on the album – for us, these songs are must-skips that bring the album a couple of notches, unfortunately.

Release date: April 16, 2021

Devine Carama - Kingtucky 3

Kingtucky 3 is the 3rd installment of a series that started back in 2016. The goal of this series is to focus a little less on socially conscious content and more on embracing the technical approach to rhyming. Kentucky producer, Peety Smooth, provided the sonic architecture for the album with dark, hauntingly gritty, Griselda-ish style beats that allowed Devine to sit comfortably in the rhyme pocket. Dope bars and dope beats – this is a project worth checking out.

Release date; April 16, 2021.

Mimz & Dunn - Infinite Lawn

Mimz and Dunn are two emcees/producers from New York City, and Infinite Lawn is their debut project. Soulful low-tempo beats and laidback vocal deliveries make for a relaxing listen, something like a meditative experience even. Infinite Lawn is a captivating listen, a great introduction to the world of Mimz and Dunn.

Release date; April 12, 2021.

DøøF & Graymatter - Radioactive Spinach

Radioactive Spinach is the product of a years-long collaboration between New York-based emcee DøøF and Richmond beatmaker Graymatter from the verdant Mutant Academy collective. Radioactive Spinach is an entertaining listen – dusty lo-fi boom-bap with DøøF’s off-beat slow-flow and psychedelic bars going well with GrayMatter trippy and slightly experimental instrumentals. Features from Al Divino, Anklejohn, Fly Anakin, Monday Night, and Lord Jahmonte help round out what is one of the best albums of its sort this year.

Release date; April 10, 2021.

Sharkula & Mukqs - Take Caution On The Beach

Free-associative Chicago rapper Sharkula teamed up with Hausu Mountain Records producer Mukqs for Take Caution On The Beach. This is a wonderfully weird project, with quirky synth-saturated drum patterns crafted by Mukqs and stream-of-consciousness lyrics from Sharkula – his lyrical content is reminiscent of Kool Keith‘s in its bizarness. Take Caution On The Beach is different, but intriguing.

Release date; April 9, 2021.

Philmore Greene - Knowledge & Power

Philmore Greene - Knowledge & Power

Chicago-based artist Philmore Greene’s debut album Chicago: A Third World City (#32 on our top 40 Hip Hop albums of 2018 list) remains his best release, but Knowledge & Power is pretty good too – on par with last year’s Survival Scrolls. As always, Philmore Greene comes with thoughtful bars, and Rashid Hadee’s soulful boom-bap instrumentals are dope as well. Features from Skyzoo and Vic Spencer (among others) help round out what is another solid Philmore Greene project.

Release date: April 5, 2021.  

P-Ro & CLOAQxDAGGER - Broken Swagger

P-Ro x CLOAQxDAGGER - Broken Swagger

Broken Swagger is Boston emcee P-Ro’s second full-length album, entirely produced by production team CLOAQxDAGGER. Broken Swagger is a throwback to East Coast Hip Hop with thick drums and soulful, jazzy samples to provide a backdrop for P’s creative concepts, detailed stories, and quotable punchlines with the right amount of personal dealings and some humor.

Sure, Broken Swagger is generic and forgettable, but it’s solid enough to give it a chance.

Release date: April 3, 2021. 

Mikal Amin, Sir Tumes, Long Division, & Professor Brian Oblivion - Moses Herman Jacobs

Seasoned New York City emcees Sir Tumes, Mikal Amin, and Long Division, led by the production of San Francisco-based DJ and producer Professor Brian Oblivion, navigate the listener through an existential journey on Moses Herman Jacobs, which is named after some of the central figures who helped shape NYC and San Francisco into what the cities are today. Professor Brian Oblivion’s beats are dope as f, and the rhymes and flows on Moses Herman Jacobs are great too – this is one of the best albums released in April.

Release date: April 2, 2021. 

Nef- Tabula Rasa

Tabula Rasa is a solid album from NYC-based producer Nef. To take care of the vocals he recruited an impressive host of talent with Termanology, Skrewtape, Ras Kass, Ghetto MC, Rome Streetz, Tek, Wais P, Nems, Lil Fame, G4 Jag, Fla$h, Dirty Sanchez 47, Raw Wattage, Mooch, Rigz, UFO Fev, Ea$y Money, Ren Thomas, Bobby J From Rockaway, Madhattan, FastLife, Fabeyon, Mia Jae, Bugout, ISO Indies, Azure Lauryn, Sincere, Mr. Bristal, and Michael Fiya. Nothing really memorable about Tabula Rasa maybe, but Nef’s instrumentals are pretty dope throughout and the emcees come with entertaining bars for the most part. Another plus is that Tabula Rasa offers value for money with 50 minutes of music, bucking the trend that has artists drop and bill barely 30-minute quickies as full-length albums. Adding Tabula Rasa to your library is a no-brainer if 90s-centric underground NYC Hip Hop is your thing.

Release date: April 2, 2021

Asun Eastwood, M.A.V. & Sibbs Roc - 98 Miles

Dope cover artwork does not a dope album make, but it helps – this cover is dope as f, and it adds to the appeal of the album without a doubt. 98 Miles is a strong collaborative effort by Toronto’s Asun Eastwood and Sibbs Rocc, and Rochester, New York’s M.A.V. 98 Miles is too short at just over 30 minutes, but what we get is quality Hip Hop of the rap-noir variety we hear so much of these days – this is upper echelon in this subgenre. 98 Miles is almost on par with M.A.V.’s Angelz & Demonz 3 LP (a collaboration with British producer Hobgoblin) from earlier this year, and better than Asun Eastwood’s project with The Twinning – Prophecy Is My Present – which dropped last February.

Release date: April 2, 2021. 

PIRATA - PIRATA

Atoms Family members Cryptic One and Jestoneart are PIRATA. Cryptic One and Jestoneart are longtime collaborators, most notably on Cryptic One’s masterpiece The Anti-Mobius Strip Theory (2004). PIRATA is not as progressive, but it is left-field enough to be a worthy part of the Atoms Family legacy. Jestoneart atmospheric instrumentals are dope, full of delicious drum breaks, bluesy loops, and obscure samples, plus Cryptic One’s potent rhymes are entertaining. PIRATA is an accessible and smooth listen, almost hypnotic and totally immersive – this is a beautiful piece of music.

Release date: April 2, 2021.

Krum - Black Lung

Krum - Black Lung | Review

Harry Krum is a producer/emcee based in Dallas, Texas. Krum’s work on the boards is outstanding, the instrumentals on Black Lung are FIRE – some of the best you’ll hear this year. Krum cooked up a heady blend of psychedelic vibes and dusty but crisp boom-bap beats laced with some exquisite sampling – reminiscent even of the best work from icons like Madlib and MF DOOM.

The strength of Black Lung is its consistency as well as its thematic and musical cohesiveness – which is bolstered even further by the quality of the vocalists Krum recruited. Black Lung features contributions from Tanya Morgan, Theory Hazit, Propaganda, Derek Minor, JGivens, Ozay Moore, Sivion, Solemn Brigham, Manchild, Sareem Poems, Stik Figa, Heath McNease, Copywrite, Pigeon John, Jabee, Headkrack, Sintax the Terrific, and Freddie Bruno – a selection of excellent emcees whose vocals prove perfectly suited to go with Krum’s organic production.

“Ultra Mag” with Solemn Brigham is one of the highlights on Black Lung, his voice is one of the most unique ones in contemporary Hip Hop. In fact, the whole Black Lung album feels similar in many ways to Marlowe 2 – the excellent album (#3 on our best of 2020 list) Solemn Brigham did last year with producer L’Orange – likening Black Lung to Marlowe 2 is a strong recommendation, of course. Other stand-outs on Black Lung include “Danger Bag” with Theory Hazit, “Uptown Eyes Wide” with Sareem Poems, “Not One Thing” with Tanya Morgan, “Riddle Me This” with JGivens, and “Trials & Tribs” with Heath McNease – but there isn’t a single bad song on Black Lung.

Release date: April 2, 2021. 

Alan Doyle - Fourtitude

Alan Doyle is a veteran emcee from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Fourtitude is available as a free download on Bandcamp – don’t pass it up, this 16-track project is too good to be given away for free, really. Musically varied boom-bap, with zero weak tracks but a couple of standouts: “More Things” (with dope drums and baseline, and scratched-in Biggie sample) is as good as Hip Hop gets.

Release date: March 31, 2021.

Cappadonna - Black Tarrzann

Cappadonna - Black Tarrzann

Wu-Tang Clan’s tenth member Cappadonna went viral getting clowned for this horrible horrible album cover (one of the ugliest we’ve ever seen, it would fit right in on this list with terrible album covers)  – was releasing an album with a cover like this one an ‘all publicity is good publicity’ marketing strategy? Whatever the thinking behind putting this windows 95 Microsoft Paint job on the cover of the album (we hope Cappadonna didn’t pay anyone for the work), Black Tarrzann is way better than its trash visual artwork would suggest – in fact, this is one of the better albums in Cappadonna’s, admittedly not very strong, catalog. Pretty good beats and bars for the most part – with a couple of dope features by Killah Priest and an especially strong appearance by A.F.R.O. – we really need a full-length album from him.

Release date: March 31, 2021.

Big Flowers - Big Smile

Big Smile is an album for a niche audience – those with a taste for experimental and dusty lo-fi Hip Hop, with distorted stream-of-consciousness type vocals will find a lot to enjoy here. Fans of more traditional or mainstream kinds of Hip Hop may want to skip this one.

Release date: March 29, 2021. 

The Bad Seed - #GETHOMESAFE

The Bad Seed - #GETHOMESAFE

The Bad Seed is a veteran underground emcee from Brooklyn NYC, his career began in 1998 with his group O.B.S. (Original Blunted Soldiers), which included artists such as Jean Grae, Pumpkinhead, Krisis, and others. #GETHOMESAFE is his third full-length project released in 2021 – solid underground East Coast Hip Hop.

Release date: March 28, 2021.  

Lync Lone - The Plot Thickens

The Plot Thickens is a dark and moody project by Rochester, New York rapper Lync Lone. The Plot Thickens is a strong follow-up to Acid Jazz, Lync Lone’s last project (with Iceberg Theory) which dropped only a month before this album. The Plot Thickens is similar to Acid Jazz when it comes to the smooth low-tempo instrumentals that can be found on both projects, but this one is markedly darker and more somber in tone than Acid Jazz is. This is an album to spend time with – a slow-burner that will grow on you.

Release date: March 27, 2021.  

Meph Luciano - Vercetti

Vercetti is Dallas, Texas-based emcee/producer Meph Luciano’s second LP of the year. He started the year strong with Annihilation, a pretty good but also kind of generic rap-noir project. There’s nothing generic about Vercetti – in fact, this project is bold in its experimentalism. Vercetti tells a classic cinematic story through sound following the 80s lifestyle of protagonist Tommy Vercetti – with lots of 1980s sounds worked in the beats. There are some duds on the album where the artistic risks that were taken do not pay off, but for the most part, this is a surprisingly interesting listen that deserves praise at the very least for trying to do something different.

Release date: March 26, 2021. 

CRIMEAPPLE- YDFWC?

march 2021 hip hop

New Jersey-based and Colombia-born emcee CRIMEAPPLE is one of a new generation of Hip Hop artists releasing projects at a steady rate, and he has become one of the underground’s frontrunners of the Griselda style kind of street rap. CRIMEAPPLE is better than most of his contemporaries, and his style is different enough to set him apart from most others too – his use of ‘Spanglish’ is refreshing, and his sense of humor makes his bars fun to listen to. YDFWC? is not even his best release (that would be Aguardiente, his 2018 collaboration with Big Ghost Ltd.), but this is a strong project nonetheless.

Release date: March 26, 2021.

Vic Spencer - Psychological Cheat Sheet 2

March 2021 Round-Up: The 9 Best Hip Hop Albums Of The Month

When will Vic Spencer get the widespread recognition he deserves? The Chicago emcee has been dropping heat for years now, with three dope projects in 2020 alone – Psychological Cheat SheetSpencer For Higher 3 (with Sonnyjim), and Rather Be A Real One all are must-listens. Psychological Cheat Sheet 2 is just as good, if not better. Like the first Psychological Cheat Sheet, this one is produced entirely by the underappreciated August Fanon – who always manages to put his own authentic stamp on anything he produces. His ethereal instrumentals here are flawless and tailormade for Vic Spencer’s distinct baritone, his off-beat flow, and his stream-of-consciousness rhyming.

Release date: March 26, 2021.

Tom Caruana - Brewing Up

Tom Caruana - Brewing Up

Tom Caruana is a British producer, for Brewing Up he recruited a host of underground rappers – like M9, Skriblah, Phoenix Da Icefire, Scorzayzee, Juganaut, Sonnyjim, Leaf Dog, and more – to add vocals to his 90s-centric instrumentals. Nice.

Release date: March 26, 2021.

The Palmer Squares - Out With The Old

The Palmer Squares are a Chicago-based Hip Hop duo composed of Acumental (aka Ac), and Term (aka Terminal Knowledge and Term K). They originally began writing raps as Ordinary Dogs, and then iLLiteracy, changing their name to The Palmer Squares in 2010. Prior to Out With The Old, the duo has released a bunch of mixtapes, EPs, and some collaborative projects with other artists, as well as three full-length albums, Finna (2013), Planet Of The Shapes (2016), and With Or Without It (2020).

The Palmer Squares are sometimes written off as a pair of corny YouTube rappers, but that’s selling them short. Like on all their albums there’s lots of dope flows and fun wordplay on Out With The Old, and the instrumentals are mostly fine too. Not bad at all.

Release date: March 26, 2021. 

Zig-Lah - Ballads Bullets & Bibles

Zig-Lah (one-third of Skeleton Grp.) dropped with an enjoyable project with Ballads Bullets & Bibles. This one of the hundreds of underground releases that remain unnoticed by most Hip Hop listeners – but unlike 90% of the others, this one is worth checking out because Zig-Lah is an above-average rapper and most of the beats on Ballads Bullets & Bibles are solid.

Release date: March 26, 2021. 

Rahiem Supreme - The 9 Diagrams

neo boom bap hip hop 2021

Washington DC’s Rahiem Supreme isn’t the best rapper you’ve ever heard and his bars on The 9 Diagrams are not especially remarkable. Also, you’ve heard better beats than the ones on The 9 Diagrams – there are so many projects with this kind of dusty boom-bap beats out there right now, it’s not difficult to find better-produced projects. That said: there is a certain charm to Rahiem Supreme and The 9 Diagrams, enough to deserve a spot on this list. If that neo-boom-bap sound is your thing, you will find enough to enjoy here.

Release date: March 21, 2021.

Skypp - King Of Indiana

hip hop march 2021

Prolific Indiananapolis-based emcee Skypp goes the boom-bap route with King Of Indiana – his highest-profile and arguably best release yet. Skypp’s flow and delivery are top-notch, and his lyrics are meaningful. The melodic boom-bap beats are great too – King Of Indiana really is a dope album. Unfortunately, the album is brought down by series of skits that probably are intended to provide a thematic storyline or maybe to add some levity or humor to the overall seriousness of the album’s lyrical content, but these skits end up being annoyances – must-skips, especially on repeated listens. But regardless of these unnecessary skits, this is an album that deserves your attention.

Release date: March 19, 2021. 

Fiend - Thank God Its Fiend

Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021 - The Honorable Mentions

“Make UGK Proud”: one of the songs on Fiend’s Thank God Its Fiend – the title of that track should tell you something about the style and sound of this album by New Orleans veteran rapper Fiend. Fiend, who came up on Master P’s No Limit label in the late 1990s, stayed true to his roots and dropped a solid 90s-centric Dirty South banger with Thank God Its Fiend.

Release date: March 19, 2021.

Kota The Friend & Statik Selektah - To Kill A Sunrise

hip hop 2021

Kota The Friend and Statik Selektah’s To Kill A Sunrise is an uncomplicated but a fun listen, with chill-out jazzy boom-bap beats crafted by Statik Selektah and thoughtful lyrics from Kota The Friend. It may not be the best work either artist has ever released, but To Kill A Sunrise is plenty enjoyable nonetheless. Props to the cover art designer too – To Kill A Sunrise sounds exactly like the cover suggests.

Release date: March 19, 2021.

Zcience Division & Mike Titan - Applied Precision

best hip hop albums 2021

Most of the best 90s-centric boom-bap production these days is done by non-US artists, Applied Precision is one of the many examples to prove that point. Zcience Division (DJ Zino and Roley Omega) is a duo from London England, and for Applied Precision they crafted 14 tracks composed of dope beats, creative sampling, and fresh cuts & scratches. For Applied Precision DJ Zino and Roley Omega joined forces with Bronx emcee Mike Titan, whose smooth flow adds to the throwback flavor this project exudes. Go listen to Applied Precision if that Golden Age sound is your thing.

Release date: March 18, 2021 

I Self Devine - Rituals Of Resilience

top hip hop albums of 2021

Rituals of Resilience is Micranots’ frontman I Self Devine’s third full-length solo album, following the slept-on Rhymesayers releases Self Destruction (2005) and The Sound Of Low Class Amerika (2012).

Like the first two albums of the Twin Cities-based emcee, Rituals of Resilience is an album with substance. In I Self Devine’s own words: “Rituals of Resilience is about the act of survival under intense pressure and heat. A place to hide when being in your body isn’t safe. A reimagining of new worlds and possibilities. The creative culture of Indigenous and diasporic ethnic groups of African descent surviving and dismantling 400 hundred years of white supremacy …through a visceral fabric of repetitious intentional movements, vibrations, gatherings, acts, symbols, and codes.”

The instrumentals on Rituals of Resilience are not easy to get into, and musically the album tends to meander at times, but I Self Devine’s content is strong – and important. This project is a slow-burner that will grow on you – support the artist and the experience, and go get Rituals of Resilience

Release date: March 18, 2021. 

MF Grimm - The Hunt For The Gingerbread Man 2: Get The Dough

hiphop 2021

Bandcamp description: “The Hunt for the Gingerbread Man 2: Get the Dough embraces the juxtaposition between a fantastical world made of candy and pastries and the dark and unforgiving lifestyle of the veteran emcee. Sonically immersive, and nostalgic of an era in Hip Hop that celebrates pain and hardship through whimsical storytelling, this album reaches deep into the life of the protagonist “Mr. Ginjy Breadman” aka “The Gingerbread Man” – and doesn’t let go until you’ve become fully invested in his tumultuous life journey in the “United Cakes of America”.

Thirteen years after the studio release of The Hunt for the Gingerbread Man, this sequel album is a testament to MF Grimm’s vivid imagination and innate ability to create stories that transport you beyond our earthly realm. Anthropomorphic cookies, pastries, and gingerbread men are the primary characters in MF Grimm’s tales of violence, crime, drugs, and love, in the ghetto known as “Candyland.”

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the twenty-one-track album is its unrelenting dedication to both the authenticity of MF Grimm’s infamous life story and the innocent and irreverent nature of the characters themselves. The album is produced, mixed, and mastered by Darko the Super.”

MF Grimm is a gifted and underrated emcee and producer, with a tragic backstoryThe Downfall of Ibliys: A Ghetto Opera (2002, his full-length debut solo album) and the epic triple LP American Hunger (2006) are our favorite MF Grimm projects, and while The Hunt for the Gingerbread Man 2: Get the Dough is not on par with those two MF Grimm monuments, this is a project to take note of anyway.

With a playing time of 74 minutes, this is a LONG album, and because there are about as many ‘interlude-like’ tracks that serve to carry the story forward as there are ‘regular’ songs, The Hunt for the Gingerbread Man 2: Get the Dough is an extremely dense listen. Most tracks are stacked with layers of sound effects and samples, with lots of beat-switches too, all of which add to the album’s inaccessibility. There’s nothing casual about The Hunt for the Gingerbread Man 2: Get the Dough.

But even if MF Grimm’s storytelling and especially Darko The Super’s superb production are complex as f, The Hunt for the Gingerbread Man 2: Get the Dough is an intriguing album that deserves attention – we applaud MF Grimm and Darko The Super for their artistic audacity and the creative risks they took here.

Release date: March 15, 2021. 

Sankofa - The Most Delicious Gold

hiphop 2021 top

Sankofa is an emcee hailing from Fort Wayne, Indiana. He has dropped a bunch of great projects in the past decade – with three excellent full-length projects and a couple of dope EPs in the last two years alone. Similar to last year’s Glyde Drexler the music on The Most Delicious Gold is soulful and smooth, and Sankofa’s relatable lyrics are a pleasure to listen to. Don’t sleep on Sankofa – check out The Most Delicious Gold, and no doubt you’ll soon be digging for his back catalog too.

Release date: March 15, 2021. 

101 - Whatever Happens Happens

hip hop albums 2021

Detroit rappers Ro Spit, Marv Won & Ron Dance joined forces to form 101 and release their collaborative debut album Whatever Happens Happensaccording to the album’s blurb a project filled with bar-heavy verses, political and social awareness. These guys know what they are about and the beats to support their hard-edged rhymes are dope too – funky, soulful, and bass-heavy. This is a strong album.

Release date: March 13, 2021

Bang Belushi - Rudy

Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021 - The Honorable Mentions

Rudy is the sophomore solo studio album from veteran Detroit emcee Bang Belushi, who came up as one-fourth of the Fat Killahz crew. Rudy follows his strong full-length debut The Adventures of Bang Belushi, which was released in 2018. Bang Belushi’s content is as generic as it gets – a mix of money, weed, sex, and street stories – but Bang Belushi has enough personality and lyrical flair to keep things entertaining. Musically there’s some variety to be found on the 16 songs on the tracklist, going from straight boom-bap to more trap-flavored beats – all crafted by producer Foul Mouth. All in all, Rudy is a solid effort, definitely worth a listen.

Release date: March 12, 2021. 

G4 Jag & Mephux - Regressions

best hip hop 2021

G4 Jag’s deep baritone and gruff monotone flow are different and recognizable, and his content is on point – sticking to themes concerning ‘regressions’. Mephux’s production could have been more interesting here and there, but all in all, Regressions is a pretty strong project – bolstered by appearances from underground heavy hitters Flee Lord and Eto, among others.

Release date: March 12, 2021. 

Ea$y Money & Fabeyon - Beyond EA$Y

hiphop 2021

Ea$y Money & Fabeyon’s Beyond EA$Y is a solid album. With input from the likes of Statik Selektah, Chilla Jones, DJ Deadeye, Termanology, Ransom, Nems, and UFO Fev there’s enough additional talent involved too. Nothing really wrong with Beyond EA$Y, but there’s nothing really memorable about either – it’s a kind of generic release in an oversaturated part of Hip Hop. Still, well worth checking out if melodic boom-bap is your go-to niche.

Release date: March 12, 2021. 

Kaimbr & Sean Born - Nino Green

Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021 - The Honorable Mentions

Nino Green is the debut collaborative album by Maryland-based rappers Kaimbr and Sean Born. Thematically the album is loosely based on New Jack City (1991), and named after Nino Green, Wesley Snipes’ character in that classic movie. Soulful musical backdrops and entertaining street raps – this is a solid album that holds a lot of promise for future joint projects from Kaimbr and Sean Born.

Release date: March 7, 2021. 

Sage Poet - Parable Of The Chariot

Sage Poet is a socially conscious emcee and producer from Malawi, Africa. He has been active in the Hip Hop game since 2004 – Parable Of The Chariot is his latest project, one that should get him some international spotlight. With his dense lyrics touching on subjects such as African history, colonialism, spirituality, religion, love, and more, Sage Poet is reminiscent in a way of Killah Priest – high praise of course. Musically, Parable Of The Chariot is more accessible than Killah Priest’s music usually is though – the production on this album is tight, with some African vibes here and there to add some extra character. Hip Hop listeners willing to look further than what’s on offer in America and the UK will find a lot to enjoy in Sage Poet’s Parable Of The Chariot.

Release date: March 6, 2021.

Cosm & Micall Parknsun - Aspetta

hip hop 2021

Aspetta is a solid project from UK-based duo Cosm and Micall Parknsun. Cosm’s noir raps mesh well with Micall Parknsun’s moody soundscapes, and even if there’s not enough about Aspetta to let it stand out from all the other projects similar to it in this oversaturated part of Hip Hop, this album is definitely worth a listen.

Release date: March 5, 2021. 

Sleep Sinatra & Ed Glorious – Sleep Gloriously

hip hop 2021

For Sleep Gloriously Lincoln, Nebraska emcee Sleep Sinatra teamed up with Indiana-based producer Ed Glorious. Sleep Sinatra had a couple of dope projects in 2020 (Sleeper Effect and Routes), and this one is solid too. Like always, Sleep Sinatra comes with personal lyrics, and a laidback flow that goes well with Ed Glorious’s mid-tempo jazzy boom-bap instrumentals.

Release date: March 5, 2021. 

Sole - MBFX

the best hip hop albums of 2021

MBFX is the final chapter in the self-produced mansbestfriend series by Maine-based rapper/producer Sole – one of the founders of Anticon, the iconic avant-garde Hip Hop collective and record label. Sole’s pen game is next-level (just check a track like “Phantom Fury”), his content is thought-provoking, and the left-field instrumentals on MBFX are intriguing and captivating. Not for everybody probably, but those familiar with what comes out of this corner of Hip Hop will know not to sleep on Sole.

Release date: March 5, 2021. 

Styliztik Jones & DirtyDiggs - Everybody Eat

hiphop 2021

Los Angeles rapper Styliztik Jones teamed up with producer duo DirtyDiggs for Everybody Eat – a top-notch presentation of smooth soulful boom-bap that runs for 40 minutes over 11 tracks. Everybody Eat: chilled-out summertime music that will put a smile on your face.

Release date: March 5, 2021. 

Mike Fish - Train Tracks

best hip hop 2021

Mike Fish is a veteran emcee/producer from Oakland, California. Train Tracks is a charming little project – at 8 tracks and barely over 30 minutes it may be too short to really consider it a proper full-length, but thankfully there’s not a moment wasted – there are no useless intros, interludes, or skits to stretch the run-time of the album, every second is spent effectively here. There’s something distinctly authentic about Mike Fish’s sound too. His entertaining rhymes are backed by beautiful, melodic boom-bap instrumentals, laced either with dope basslines and drums (most notably on the standout track “Fly Atheist”), synths (“Without Love” and “Lumber Jack Rap”), or organs (“How We Act”) – really every track on Train Tracks has something to distinguish it musically from the others. In a Hip Hop landscape where lots of projects sound exactly the same, an album like Train Tracks is like a breath of fresh air.

Release date: March 5, 2021. 

TEK - Pricele$$

best hip hop 2021

Representing Bed Stuy Brooklyn, Tekomin “TEK” Williams burst onto the Hip Hop scene in 1993 with a couple of appearances on Black Moon’s Enta Da Stage album. As one-half of the groundbreaking duo Smif-N-Wessun, and as an integral part of super collective Boot Camp Clik, TEK has cemented himself as a Hip Hop icon. His last album with Steele as Smif-N-Wessun, 2019’s The All, was dope as f, but his last solo effort – last year’s PANDEMIC was a disappointment. Thankfully, Pricele$$ is a return to form. 

A host of high-profile guest rappers – like Buckshot, General Steele, Sheek Louch, Rome Streetz, Roc Marciano, AZ, Conway the Machine, Dark Lo, and Lil Fame – add value with their appearances, as does Sean Price with a posthumous verse. Where TEK’s Smif-N-Wessun partner Steele dropped a strong socio-politically-charged album with his AmeriKKKa’s Nightmare III: City Under Siege earlier this year, TEK’s Pricele$$ is more straightforward in its lyrical content – what we get here is a lot of that good old-fashioned sh*ttalking and street rap wordplay. Nothing incredible or especially memorable about Pricele$$, but both the beats and the rhymes are solid enough to add this TEK album to your library. 

Release date: March 5, 2021. 

Termanology & Shortfyuz - GOYA 3

hiphop 2021

GOYA 3 is a collaborative album from prolific Massachusetts rapper Termanology and producer Shortyfuz. The biggest knock against GOYA 3 is the number of guest artists – with appearances from  Lil Fame, Rome Streetz, Jay Royale, Tek, REKS, Ea$y Money, Artisin, Planet Asia, NymLo, Cassidy, Oun P, Eto, Bonnie B, H Blanco, UFO Fev, Nems, Jared Evan, Wais P, Stunna Gang, Crimeapple, and Tony Touch, this feels more like a compilation album than a Termanology project – it hurts the album’s cohesiveness. And unlike some other artists out there, Termanology is such a good lyricist he really doesn’t need a couple of guest emcees on every song. That said: most of these guests are top-level, so if you go in not expecting a straight Termanology album you will be fine. Shortyfuz’s Latin-tinged production is dope, and the wordplay of Termanology and his guests is entertaining.

Release date: March 5, 2021. 

Onyx - ONYX 4 Life

the best hip hop albums of 2021 March

Onyx – these days a duo consisting of Sticky Fingaz and Fredro Star – dropped a strong album with ONYX 4 Life. Not all Onyx albums are keepers, but their first three – Bacdafucup (1993), All We Got Iz Us (1995), and Shut ‘Em Down (1998) – are all great albums: Bacdafucup is an iconic classic, the underrated All We Got Iz Us arguably is their best album. With ONYX 4 Life Sticky Fingaz and Fredro Star did not reinvent the wheel nor should they have – by sticking to their formula they show that after 30 years in the game they still have the chemistry and the energy that brought them platinum success in the early 1990s. ONYX 4 Life offers exactly what you’d expect: guttural, grimy raps over hard-ass beats – this is one of Onyx’s best efforts since the 1990s.

Release date: March 3, 2021. 

Tesla's Ghost - Amahl Farouk

hiphop 2021 UK

Tesla’s Ghost is an emcee from London, UK. He has adopted the sound and style of grimy underground NYC street rap in the vein of Griselda and Roc Marci, and he does it well. Dusty beats and samples set the scene, serving as a fitting backdrop for Tesla’s Ghost’s well-written rhymes. “Opioid” ft. Lord Juco, Ray Vendetta, and Falcon Outlaw is the standout song, but Amahl Farouk is a consistent effort with no weak spots – don’t sleep on this project if that Griselda sound is your thing.

Release date: March 2, 2021. 

Bugsy Da God - Diary Of An Underground Villian

Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021 - The Honorable Mentions

Exactly 10 years after his debut album The Terrorist Advocate Killarmy-affiliate Bugsy Da God drops Diary Of An Underground Villian. With production from 4th Disciple, True Master, and Bronze Nazareth (among others), and appearances from the likes of Dom Pachino and Recognize Ali, it’s clear what to expect from Diary Of An Underground Villian – raw, underground Hip Hop with a Wu-Tang vibe. Sure, this project is kind of generic, but it’s solid enough nonetheless – a must-listen for Wu-Tang completionists at the very least.

Release date: March 1, 2021. 

Eclyse & Skinny Bonez Tha Godfatha - Prime Expertise

hip hop releases 2021

Prime Expertise is a collaborative album by Florida-based MC Eclyse and Dutch producer Skinny Bonez Tha Godfatha. Prime Expertise is a 10 track album, on which Eclyse and Skinny Bonez managed to find an effective balance between positive soulful tracks and gritty atmospheric bangers – this is a dope project, listen to it here.

Release date: February 27, 2021. 

Ca$ablanca & Cap Chino - Korea​-​Town

best hiphop 2021

Dallas-based artists Ca$ablanca and Cap Chino are regular collaborators, the last time just a couple of months ago on Gold Front Fang$. Ca$ablanca is one of those extremely prolific artists, dropping multiple projects each year, Korea-Town is his first release in 2021. Ca$ablanca’s content is solid, as are the contributions of guests Nowaah The Flood and Meph Luciano, D.R.E Colombian Raw, and Y.N.X.716, but this album is special because of the instrumentals. Korea-Town is packed with intriguing beats crafted by Cap Chino, all slightly experimental and off-kilter – this is not a straightforward or easy listen. Korea-Town is not an album for a skim-listen, but one to give some real attention – a slow-burner that will (need to) grow on you.

Release date: February 26, 2021.

Frac & Tone - Sweet Chin Music

boom bap 2021

Canadian producer/emcee Fraction and Michigan emcee Ill Tone joined forces to drop Sweet Chin Music– 10 tracks of raw underground boom-bap, with hard-hitting beats and rhymes. This is a dope project – perfectly suited for Hip Hop traditionalists.

Release date: February 24, 2021

Asun Eastwood & The Twinning - Prophecy Is My Present

Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021 - The Honorable Mentions

Toronto emcee Asun Eastwood teamed up with Philadelphia duo The Twinning for Prophecy Is My Present. Nothing wrong with this project – the moody boom-bap beats are solid, as are Asun Eastwood’s bars and that of guest rappers like Lord Juco, Raz Fresco, Don Smith, Rasheed Chappell, and others – but there’s nothing here that lets Prophecy Is My Present stand out from better projects with a similar sound out today either – and there’s a lot of better similar-sounding projects to be found right now. Still, well worth checking out if modern-day underground boom-bap floats your boat.

Release date: February 23, 2021. 

Ol' Burger Beats & Vuyo - Dialogue

jazz rap 2021

Ol’ Burger Beats is a producer from Oslo, Norway, for Dialogue he teamed up with South-African/Norwegian emcee Vuyo. According to their Bandcamp page Dialogue is inspired by spiritual and revolutionary jazz records, sweet soul music, and classic New York Hip Hop – people up for a dose of chilled-out jazz-rap with a left-field twist should definitely check out Dialogue.

Release date: February 19, 2021. 

Your Old Droog & Tha God Fahim - Tha YOD Fahim

hip hop albums 2021

Even if both artists had better projects in the past individually, Tha YOD Fahim still is plenty good. Their January release Tha Wolf On Wall St was a great appetizer, on this full-length Droog and Fahim deliver on the promise made by that EP, once again showcasing undeniable chemistry. The Nottz-produced “Slam Dunk Contest” with a verse from the incomparable Pharoahe Monch is a highlight, as are tracks like “Charles Barkley”, “Reign Man”, “Lost Smile”, and “Questions”. Production on Tha YOD Fahim is kind of hit-or-miss, but the positives easily outweigh the negatives – at the very least there’s enough uniqueness to most beats to make this project stand out from the crowd.

Release date: February 19, 2021. 

Erratic - Apocalyption

Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021 - The Honorable Mentions

Apocalyption is the debut album from New England-based underground rapper Erratic. Apocalyption is a fairly typical horrorcore project – but even if it is kind of generic for the subgenre, it’s well enough executed, with bombastic instrumentals and hard-hitting rhymes. Fans of the music from acts like Tech N9ne and Twiztid will dig Apocalyption. 

Release date: February 19, 2021. 

Malus & Lyrical Waterside - Connectivity

With Connectivity, Tokyo-based duo Malus and Lyrical Waterside delivered an easy-listening album that will leave of smile on your face. Smooth instrumentals and dope rhymes – to take care of the vocals the duo recruited a bunch of great artists like Artifacts, Clear Soul Forces, Akil The MC (Jurassic 5), Kota The Friend, and Awon – among others. Connectivity = upbeat and melodic 90s-centric Hip Hop.

Release date: February 19, 2021. 

Curtis Dro - P.O.T.P.

hiphop 2021

Curtis Dro is an up-and-coming rapper from Atlanta, and P.O.T.P. is a solid project that deserves a listen if you’re into witty wordplay backed by the melodic 808’s. P.O.T.P. is an album to ride to.

Release date: February 19, 2021. 

Jim Jones & Harry Fraud - The Fraud Department

best hip hop albums 2021

This collaboration between veteran emcee Jim Jones – of Dipset fame – and producer Harry Fraud is a nice laid-back project with lots of mainstream appeal, thanks to its polished instrumentals and catchy hooks. The strength of this album is its cohesiveness – it’s just another example of having one producer is better for creating a singular sound than bringing in a different producer for every single song on a project. Harry Fraud’s music is lush and cinematic, and Jim Jones’ New York street stories are as vivid as ever, as are the bars supplied by guests like Dave East, French Montana, Curren$y, and Conway the Machine (among others). At a mere 31 minutes, The Fraud Department is short, but sweet.

Release date: February 19, 2021. 

Jay NiCE & Machacha - A Stream Of Consciousness

Jay NiCE & Machacha

Delaware emcee Jay Nice has been on a roll the last couple of years, this collaboration with producer Machacha is another entry in what is a string of solid projects. Nothing wrong with A Stream of Consciousness either, but it has little to distinguish itself from all the other Griselda-esque releases out these days – outside mainstream trap, this arguably is the most oversaturated niche of all the subgenres in Hip Hop. That said, fans of atmospheric low- to midtempo modern-day boom-bap will not be disappointed by A Stream of Consciousness. 

Release date: February 18, 2021. 

The Ruler Gods - The Ruler Gods

hip hop 2021

Rawmatik, Raf Almighty, & G Stats are The Ruler Gods, and this self-titled album is their first collaborative project.

From their Bandcamp page: “Hip Hop is a universal language that millions have learned to speak in the nearly five decades since its birth, from New York to Berlin to Tokyo. That is why Budapest’s beatmaker Rawmatik (who previously worked with rap-heavyweights like Edo G., Termanology, and Rasco), New York’s underground veteran G Stats and lyricist Raf Almighty from Baltimore could understand each other immediately with the methods of the “golden era”. The trio of the two American linguists and the Hungarian beatsmith named themselves The Ruler Gods, and with months of joint, hard work across continents, they created a full record of material out of rhymes reflecting real life, all based on heavy boom-bap beats. Ruste Juxx and Ras Kass jumped in with their own verses and made the album complete.”

A couple of forgettable tracks stand in the way of a higher ranking, but there are some real bangers on here – listen to this whole project and you’ll be sure to add stand-out tracks like “The Ruler Gods” and “Chase The Dragon” to your ‘best of 2021‘ playlist.

Release date: February 18, 2021. 

The Bad Seed, Honey Dinero & Stuck B - Kill Switch 2: The Devil's Rejects

top hip hop albums 2021

The Bad Seed is a veteran underground emcee from Brooklyn NYC, whose career began in 1998 with his group O.B.S. (Original Blunted Soldiers), which included artists such as Jean Grae, Pumpkinhead, Krisis, and others. Kill Switch 2: The Devil’s Rejects is a follow-up to last year’s KILL SWITCH, a concept album that follows 10-year-old Malik, a good innocent kid with a deep curiosity for street life and hood culture who finds a comic book called “KILL SWITCH” which chronicles life in hell, exposing a world of violence, robbery, extortion, etc. As he reads, Malik begins to find himself immersed in the world, heading for an inevitable conclusion.

Kill Switch 2: The Devil’s Rejects is another concept album for which The Bad Seed teamed up with Honey Dinero and  Stuck B. This album plays like an ‘audio film’, emulating the 2005 Rob Zombie movie The Devils Rejects with The Bad Seed starring as ‘Otis’, Honey Dinero starring as ‘Baby’ and Stuck B delivering the role of ‘Captain Spaulding’. Just like KILL SWITCH, Kill Switch 2: The Devil’s Rejects is a strong project, with dope beats crafted by Team Demo, and entertaining rhymes by The Bad Seed, Honey Dinero, and Stuck B. Don’t sleep on Kill Switch 2: The Devil’s Rejects.

Release date: February 16, 2021. 

The Hill - Receiving

the best hip hop albums of 2021

The Hill is a duo from New England, consisting of Pine Hill and Winter Hill. Receiving is their debut project, and it’s unlike anything you will hear this year – no mean feat in today’s oversaturated Hip Hop market. Receiving is a concept album, following two convicts from an alien world who stage a prison break – snatching a perpetually transmitting radio communicator on their way out – seeking refuge on an obscure habitable planet far beyond the legal reach of their captors. Receiving is their transmission (the first third of a three-album-long plot).

You may have heard better beats and better emcees, but what Pine Hill and Winter Hill do here truly is something special. Receiving is an immersive experience, an album that should be taken in in a single sitting, in the same you’d experience a movie. From start to finish Receiving offers cinematic instrumentals full of atmosphere and lots of dope in-song beat-switches, complemented by compelling quasi-abstract story-telling – reminiscent in a way of Deltron’s classic Deltron 3030 album. Hip Hop listeners who get tired of all the thirteen-a-dozen albums out these days would do well to go and check this project out.

Release date: February 13, 2021. 

Lync Lone & Iceberg Theory - Acid Jazz

Iceberg Theory is one of the most interesting producers out there, able to come up with something different every time. The work he did on Acid Jazz is more accessible than some of this more left-field type of production – the content of this project is jazzy and smooth, the album cover should tell you a lot about what to expect. Lync Lone’s vocals are an acquired taste, but if you can get with his laid-back whispery style no doubt Acid Jazz will find its way into your best-of-2021 library.

Release date: February 12, 2021. 

Wais P - SUNOVA

best hip hop 2021

SUNOVA is a bombastic boom-bap LP from veteran Brooklyn emcee Wais P, with guest spots from Termanology, Lil Fame, Sauce Money, Yogi, and Nitty Scott. Solid underground NYC Hip Hop.

Release date: February 12, 2021. 

slowthai - TYRON

best hip hop albums of 2021

Lots of hype surrounded this release from UK rapper slowthai. Expectations for his sophomore effort were high after the impression slowthai made with his debut full-length album Nothing Great About Britain. Nothing Great About Britain was a socio-politically charged and at times emotional snapshot of Britain in 2018/2019, capturing the mental state of a fractured nation from the perspective of an angry and embittered young adult. With his debut slowthai established himself as an exciting new voice in UK Hip Hop – with a brash punk-attitude but with plenty of charisma and charm as well.

TYRON (slowthai’s real name is Tyron Frampton) is something very different. TYRON is an album of two halves: the first half with up-tempo bangers, the second half with more personal, musically toned-down songs. It’s obvious that with this album slowthai tries to capitalize on the overseas popularity of Nothing Great About Britain, by adopting a more “American” sound with some trap-infused instrumentals to appeal to the mainstream. This is not a trap album though, slowthai’s grime-punk-rap voice is too unique to sink into a bland trap-hole, and his emotive lyrical content is far from generic.

Despite the two different halves, TYRON is an entirely cohesive listen – it has exactly the right amount of brash and chill, the transition from the first to the second half is smooth, and production is top-drawer for the most part. At 35 minutes the album is too short for the tonal duality to really come off though (the album is over before you know it), and some of the featured artists don’t bring their A-game (most notably Denzel Curry on ‘terms” has an uncharacteristically limp appearance). There’s also the feeling of unfulfilled potential because of the brevity of a lot of tracks (most are around the 2-minute mark), most notably in “WOT” – what could have been a banger of track, but turns out to be more like a 48-second interlude – too short to have an impact. Other guests like Skepta, A$AP Rocky, and James Blake do deliver with their contributions, on “CANCELLED”, “MAZZA”,  and “feel away” – some of the stronger tracks on TYRON.

All in all, even if it’s not quite as impactful as Nothing Great About Britain was, TYRON is a strong sophomore outing for slowthai. Because it’s straddling genre-fences here and there, the album may not appeal to Hip Hop purists – but there is no denying slowthai is a unique talent whose ability to convey thoughts with his voice and lyrics is second to none. With Nothing Great About Britain slowthai stepped into the international spotlight, with this compelling second album he proves he plans to stay there.

Release date: February 12, 2021. 

Roc$tedy - Flying Colors

hiphop 2021

Longbeach, California rapper Roc$tedy’s Flying Colors has lots of mainstream appeal with its melodic 808s and its catchy hooks. Even if it has more trap-sensibilities we are normally able to tolerate, this is a surprisingly enjoyable project – mainly because Roc$tedy has skills.

Release date: February 12, 2021. 

Slaine - The Things We Can't Forgive

top rap 2021

The Things We Can’t Forgive is the latest project of La Coka Nostra member Slain, following 2017’s Anti-Hero collaboration with Termanology, and 2019’s One Day. Like One DayThe Things We Can’t Forgive is (primarily) produced entirely by The Arcitype, and the album has features of fellow La Coka Nostra member Ill Bill, as well as from Claire Whall, Snak The Ripper, and Rike Hook.

The Things We Can’t Forgive is another solid Slaine project, as always with deeply personal content and some rock-flavored vibes in Slain’s vocals and in the boom-bap instrumentals. People who dig the sort of Hip Hop coming out of the La Coka Nostra/Jedi Mind Tricks/Army Of The Pharaohs corner of Hip Hop will like The Things We Can’t Forgive without a doubt.

Release date: February 12, 2021. 

Chris Crack - Might Delete Later

best rap music 2021

Prolific Chicago rapper and producer Chris Crack returns with Might Delete Later, his first album on the Fool’s Gold Records label, after a long string of self-released mixtapes and EP’s. Chris Crack is a unique voice in Hip Hop. He comes off as a hybrid of Danny Brown and fellow Chicagoan Vic Spencer, combining the franticness of the former with the laidback style of the latter, all of it with his very own hedonistic (at times vulgar) blend of humor and bravado. Stylistically Chris Crack is not one to be pigeonholed, he effectively combines chilled-out jazz-vibes with melodic trap-flavored instrumentals on Might Delete Later – managing to make the project sound entirely cohesive anyway. Might Delete Later is a good entry point to the world of Chris Crack for those who have been sleeping on his work so far.

Release date: February 12, 2021. 

Myka 9 & Profound - Nine Clouds

best hip hop 2021

Myka 9 is a veteran rapper and producer from Los Angeles, a prominent member of the Project Blowed collective. He is also a founding member of Freestyle Fellowship, Haiku D’Etat, and Magic Heart Genies, and he’s dropped countless other collaborative and solo projects over the years. On Nine Clouds, Myka 9 raps over beats crafted by the recently deceased UK producer Profound, whose melodic soul and sample-infused backdrops enable Myka 9 to embrace his boom-bap roots. Nine Clouds is more accessible than some of Myka 9’s more experimental works, and one of his best projects in recent years. Features from the likes of  Blu, Aceyalone, Abstract Rude, Eligh, The Grouch, Blueprint, Joaquin Daniels, Lily Fangz, and DJ Essential help round out this short but dope project.

Release date: February 12, 2021. 

Big Stacks & Nite Tyme - The Vibe Out

best hip hop 2021

The Vibe Out is a collaborative album by Philadelphia producer/emcee Big Stacks and Milwaukee emcee Nite Tyme, a follow-up to their 2017 The Balance of Power album. Big Stacks’ slick melodic boom-bap instrumentals are superb from start to finish, perfect for Nite Tyme’s dope flows and potent wordplay. Composed of 15 tracks and with a running time of one hour, consistency is the strength of The Vibe Out – there’s no filler material on this albumThe nostalgia-inducing The Vibe Out is a must for rap traditionalists, and for anyone else up for top-quality Hip Hop for grown-ups.

Release date: February 11, 2021. 

M.A.V. & Hobgoblin - Angelz & Demonz 3

best hip hop 2021

M.A.V. is an emcee from Rochester, New York, and Hobgoblin is a producer from Birmingham in the United Kingdom. Together they are responsible for the excellent Angelz and Demonz series, of which this is the final installment. Dusty boom-bap instrumentals laced with ominous samples, crafted by Hobgoblin – one of the most interesting underground producers active today – and hard-as-nails lyrics from M.A.V. and guests like Vinnie Paz and Ty Farris (among others): this is a well-rounded project that will appeal to fans of the sounds pioneered by the likes of Roc Marciano and Griselda. That cover art is pretty awesome too.

Release date: February 11, 2021. 

Marlon Craft - How We Intended

Marlon Craft’s is an emcee from Hell’s Kitchen, New York whose name had been buzzing around the internet for a couple of years before he dropped his official debut album Funhouse Mirror in 2019. Funhouse Mirror turned out to be a thoroughly solid listen, with excellent jazzy instrumentals and great bars with a lot of substance and depth. How We Intended is Marlon Craft’s sophomore album, and it is a confirmation. Marlon Craft shows and proves he understands how it’s done, taking the strengths of his debut and building on them.

How We Intended is a well-rounded project, consisting of 17 well-sequenced tracks in total. The opening track “2020 Intro” is a perfect example of how an album should be opened – a first track needs to be strong to pull the listener in, and this one does. Marlon Craft has a great voice and a dope flow, and his content is relatable with consistent lyrical sharpness, regardless of the topic. The record features tasteful production from Plain Pat, 6ix, and IllMind amongst others, and Marlon Craft is joined on the album by guests Radamiz, Bobby Feeno, Chris Rivers, Oswin Benjamin, Katori Walker, and Malz Monday.

How We Intended is one of those rare albums with the potential for widespread appeal – boom-bap traditionalists, as well as people from the pop-rap crowd (and everyone in between), can find plenty to enjoy here without being turned off by influences that may not appeal directly to personal tastes. There are enough banging beats, but there’s lots of more subtle musicality to be found on How We Intended too – beats-wise there even are some forays into trap-like territory that surprisingly do not hurt the cohesiveness of the album in any way (although a track like “Roadtrippin” is one of the weaker songs on the album for us). For HHGA, the album would have been better with less of the sing-songy hooks, but that’s just a minor complaint – they might not bother you.

In today’s music game where lots of artists release one placeholder project after the other – everything to stay in the public’s eye continuously – Marlon Craft’s How We Intended clearly is the opposite of a slapped-together quickie. This is a serious release, undoubtedly an album that will prove to have staying power.

Release date: February 10, 2021. 

Codenine - LVNDR

the best hip hop albums of 2021

Codenine of Massachusetts super-crew Tragic Allies started 2021 off strong with LVNDR. Codenine’s debut (with fellow Tragic Allies member Purpose) Below Sumerian Skies ranks on our top 40 Hip Hop albums of 2016 list, and all Codenine projects following that debut were pretty good too. With LVNDR Codenine continues his streak of excellence. Production is tight on LVNDR, darkly atmospheric with dope sampling throughout, and Codenine has bars for days. Like mostly everything that comes out of the Tragic Allies camp, LVNDR strikes a great balance between Hip Hop with a 90s-centric feel and a more contemporary boom-bap sound. Tragic Allies colleague Estee Nack makes an appearance, along with the likes of Crucial the Guillotine, Bub Rock, and Lord Jah-Monte Ogbon – helping round out what is one the finest projects of its sort this year.

Release date: February 8, 2021. 

Hobgoblin - The Awakening

the best hip hop albums 2021

British beat-crafter Hobgoblin’s The Awaking is one of the finest producer’s albums of the year. The Awaking offers 10 equally strong tracks composed of deliciously dark bass-heavy boom-bap beats, with a host of top-tier underground emcees to take care of the vocals. The Awaking = raw underground Hip Hop at its finest.

Release date: February 5, 2021. 

Conway The Machine & Big Ghost Ltd - If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed

Conway continues to show growth as an artist on If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed. This project is a great follow-up to the equally strong No One Mourns The Wicked – Conway and Big Ghost Ltd’s cooperative project released in 2020. Conway’s bars hit hard as always, but it’s Big Ghost Ltd’s instrumentals that elevate If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed to a higher level.

At 30 minutes If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed is much too short to be considered a proper full-length of course, and on such a short project everything has to be perfect. Not everything is perfect here – there are a couple of forgettable tracks on It Bleeds It Can Be Killed (like “Highly Praised”) – but fortunately, there are more bangers – like “Toast”, “Red Beams”, and especially the absolute stand out “Kill All Rats” (with Ransom & Rome Streetz). Due to its brevity If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed is more like is not included on our best albums of 2021 list, but this is a dope project nonetheless.

Release date: February 5, 2021. 

Cee Knowledge - The Calidelphian

Cee Knowledge (Craig Irvin) is a Fresno-based artist also known under the moniker Doodlebug as one-third of the legendary Digable Planets trio (together with Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler, and Mariana “Ladybug Mecca” Vieira). With Digable Planets, he was responsible for two timeless jazz-rap classics: Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space) (1993) and Blowout Comb (1994). Of the three Digable Planets members, it arguably is Ishmael Butler who has the most celebrated post-Digable Planets career as half of Shabazz Palaces (the monumental Black Up (2011) is one of HHGA’s favorite albums of the 2010s).

The Calidelphian is Cee Knowledge’s first proper solo full-length, the title of the album is a play on where Cee Knowledge is currently based geographically (Fresno, California) and on where he is from originally (Philadelphia). The album combines the best of both worlds: The Calidelphian offers 13 full tracks of head-nodding boom-bap beats combined with smooth melodic vibes, topped off with solid wordplay. Fans of 90s-centric Hip Hop will not regret checking out The Calidelphian. 

Release date: February 5, 2021. 

General Steele & Es-K - AmeriKKKa's Nightmare III: City Under Siege

Smif-N-Wessun emcee General Steele links up again with producer Es-K, this time for AmeriKKKa’s Nightmare III: City Under Siege – a timely and much-needed album suited for the troubled times we live in. AmeriKKKa’s Nightmare III: City Under Siege is politically charged and thought-provoking in the best tradition of acts like Public Enemy, Ice Cube, and dead prez. The album drags a bit in the middle of the tracklist, but starts and ends strong with tracks like “What AmeriKKKa’s Fears”, “AmeriKKKa’s Nightmare”, “AmeriKKKan Made, “No Piece, No Justice” (with a powerful verse from guest rapper Ruste Juxx), “Border Wars”, and “Propaganda”. AmeriKKKa’s Nightmare III: City Under Siege is a must-listen.

Release date: February 5, 2021. 

Pseudo Intellectuals - Only Built For Food And Drinks

Pseudo Intellectuals is a trio from Buffalo, New York. They debuted in 2008 with the excellent but sadly slept on Resourceful Illery. Since 2008 they’ve dropped a number of dope projects, Only Built For Food And Drinks is another fine addition to their catalog. Only Built For Food And Drinks is a must-listen for fans of traditional sounding Hip Hop – melodic boom-bap beats, lots of throwback style scratching, and clever wordplay: this album is a fun listen.

Release date: January 30, 2021. 

Substance810 - Making Waves

Substance810 is an emcee/producer from Port Huron, Michigan, Making Waves is his seventh album (he started out as Tekneek, and debuted under that name with The Definition in 2006). Making Waves offers 40 minutes of way above-average underground boom-bap, Substance810’s beats hit hard and his pen game is a sharp as his production is. DJ Grazzhopppa adds a nice throwback vibe with his scratching on several tracks, and there’s a bunch of guest emcees like Estee Nack, Ty Farris, Killy Shoot, Chuck Chan, (and others) to add some extra lyrical flavor. This is an album that will appeal to fans of traditional boom-bap as well as to fans of atmospheric rap-noir in the vein of Griselda and such artists.

Release date: January 29, 2021. 

The Musalini & O Finess - No Squares In My Circle

It’s hard to keep up with the releases from artists who have adopted the rap-noir sounds of Roc Marci and Griselda, all with the same kind of minimalistic atmospheric beats and the same kind of tough-guy coke & pimp rhymes. Bronx, New York-native The Musalini is one of the top-dogs in this subgenre of Hip Hop though, his work definitely is a cut or two above the music of most of the competition.

No Squares In My Circle is a strong follow-up to The Musalini’s 2020 LP Return Of The Oro. And even if No Squares In My Circle is a collaboration with Denver’s O Finess, it kind of feels like a sequel to Return Of The Oro in many ways – not in the least because of the similar (and awesome) cover art. No Squares In My Circle offers nothing you haven’t heard before, but this is a great project anyway.

Release date: January 29, 2021. 

Paul Willis - Wonderland

Paul Willis - Wonderland

Paul Willis is a Hip Hop artist, educator, and community organizer based in Sacramento, California, originally hailing from Boston, Massachusetts. Wonderland is a personal narrative across 10 tracks about Willis’ youth in Boston. Willis has a dope flow, his content is relatable, and the music on Wonderland is enjoyable – this is one of the many many projects out there that will fly way below everybody’s radars, but those willing to give Wonderland a chance will be in for a nice surprise.

Release date: January 29, 2021. 

Breeze Brewin & Juggaknots - Hindsight

The Juggaknots is a trio from The Bronx, New York, consisting of siblings Breeze Brewin, Queen Herawin, and Buddy Slim. They have been at it for a while – real heads will know of their debut studio album, Clear Blue Skies (1996), an indie release (re-issued as Re:Release with 11 bonus tracks in 2003) that is now considered an underground classic.

Hindsight is billed as the debut solo album from Breeze Brewin, with production from the likes of Marco Polo, Black Milk, De La Soul’s DJ Maseo, DJ Spinna, Sebb Bash, and others. With Hindsight Breeze Brewin gives us 13 dope songs, with socio-political insights  (“Devil’s Advocate”, which has Breeze criticizing former President Donald Trump), his view on the music industry (“The Application”), and some deeply personal bars about friendships (“The Uninvited”) and about being a teacher as a person of color (“Taking Notes”). Hindsight is a slice of grown man Hip Hop at its finest.

Release date: January 22, 2021. 

th1rt3en - A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism

th1rt3en is a trio led by Pharoahe Monch, with Marcus Machado on guitar, and Daru Jones on drums. A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism is Pharoahe Monch’s first full-length project since his last solo album PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, released in 2014.

Pharoahe Monch has never been very prolific, with no more than seven albums on his name since his recording debut 30 years ago: Organized Konfusion (1991), Stress: The Extinction Agenda (1994), and The Equinox (1997) as part of Organized Konfusion (with Prince Po); and Internal Affairs (1999), Desire (2007), W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) (2011), and PTSD (2014) as a soloist. Quality over quantity – all these albums are excellent displays of intelligent, complex, top-tier lyricism.

Now, is A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism the return longtime Pharoahe Monch fans were hoping for? Maybe not. It is possible some listeners will be disappointed, as A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism is almost as much rock music as it is Hip Hop, and pulling off a cohesive rap-rock fusion is not an easy thing to do. For HHGA, th1rt3en succeeded admirably though.

Pharoahe Monch still is one of the best and most versatile lyricists in the game. At 48 he is as sharp as he ever was, and even if his flow and delivery have changed some over the decades his sound still is second to none (the few attempts at singing he does on the album can be forgiven). On A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism, Pharoahe Monch addresses timely topics such as racism, consumerism, police brutality and corruption, and others – his lyrics here are deep and thought-provoking as always. This is an album for the times we live in.

Musically A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism is kind of heavy on the rock side here and there mainly owing to Marcus Machado’s searing guitar work, but Pharoahe Monch’s rapping and the beats and drums on the album conjure enough of a Hip Hop vibe to make the album appeal even to the most entrenched Hip Hop purists.

A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism is sure to polarize opinions, but everybody who is able to go into it with an open mind will find much to enjoy and admire.

Release date: January 22, 2021. 

Shamon Cassette & Jaz Infinite - Blades Of Steel

boom bap hip hop 2021

Blades Of Steel is a concept album built around an ice-hockey theme, with dope 90s-centric boom-bap beats crafted by Jaz Infinite, entertaining rhymes by Los Angeles-based Shamon Cassette, and guest bars from Myka 9, Thirstin Howl The 3rd, Spoek Mathambo, Pugs Atomz, and many others.

Release date: January 21, 2021. 

Jah Connery - Nah

Jah Connery - Nah

This is the first full-length solo effort from Detroit producer/rapper Jah Connery in ten years. Nah is a solid presentation of melodic underground Hip Hop, with enough of a quirky twist to the music to set it apart from other releases. And while it’s clear Jah Connery is a producer first and an emcee second, his wordplay is entertaining and worth listening to, and his flow is fine too. Give Nah a chance, you might be in for a nice surprise.

Release date: January 20, 2021. 

Ty Farris - Practice Raps

Detroit emcee Ty Farris had a couple of solid releases in 2020, and he continues his streak of quality releases in 2021 with the short but strong Practice Raps tape. Dope beats and great wordplay from one of the best emcees in the underground.

Release date: January 18, 2021. 

Frank Knight & Chuck Lawayne - Slim & Mickens

the best hip hop albums of 2021

Frank Knight teamed up with producer/emcee Chuck Lawayne for Slim & Mickens, a thoroughly enjoyable presentation that pays homage to the 70’s Blaxploitation era. Well-realized, down to the cover art aesthetics, this project is a great listen that deserves your attention if smooth and soulful Hip Hop is your thing.

Release date: January 18, 2021. 

jaH-Monte - Seventy-Fifth & Amsterdam Side B: Lost In NYC

jaH-Monte Ogbon is an Ohio-born, North Carolina-based rapper, spending extended time in Brooklyn, New York in recent times to connect with local artists and to make music. Seventy-Fifth & Amsterdam Side B: Lost In NYC is his follow-up to last year’s Seventy-Fifth & Amsterdam Side A. Where Side A was sweet but short at 15 minutes, Side B is a proper full-length at 47 minutes, giving it a more fleshed out and better-rounded overall feel.

Seventy-Fifth & Amsterdam Side B: Lost In NYC is not a thirteen to a dozen kind of album (which we see so many of in today’s oversaturated Hip Hop market), but it has an own distinctive sound – largely owing to excellent production from start to finish. The chilled-out sample-based instrumentals will hold your attention from beginning to end, and there is nothing wrong with jah Monte’s flow and lyrics either, nor with that of guests like Big Kahuna OG, Fly Anakin, Brain Orchestra, and others. Seventy-Fifth & Amsterdam Side B: Lost In NYC is a dope project and jaH-Monte is an artist to watch.

Release date: January 18, 2021. 

Rick Fury - Return Of The King

the best hip hop albums of 2021

Rick Fury is a veteran emcee from Newcastle, UK. Return Of The King is a solid album, offering over an hour of fun wordplay supported by smooth and soulful boom-bap beats. All aesthetics matter and the awesome cover art for Return Of The King adds to the album’s appealFavorite track: “How To Deal With A Liar”, with guest vocals from Abi Nyxx – a female vocalist to watch.

Release date: January 15, 2021. 

Paavo - Crumble A Paper Man

boom bap 2021

This is a project for Hip Hop traditionalists. Paavo is an emcee from San Francisco, and for Crumble A Paper Man he teamed up with producer Burnt Bakarak, who’s from Ohio originally. Knowing their geographical origins, maybe it’s unexpected that they cooked up an album that is clearly inspired by 1990s New York Hip Hop – with enough of a contemporary twist to keep things fresh that is. Paavo is an emcee with a distinctive sound, and Burnt Bakarak’s upbeat brand of boom-bap is dope.

Release date: January 15, 2021. 

Antahlyzah - The Ceremonial Gifted

hip hop 2021

“Golden Era is my habitat”. Los Angeles-based emcee Khalil the Antahlyzah stays true to his roots and brings forth an ancestral vibration while representing the forefathers with that Golden Age sound on his 11th album The Ceremonial Gifted. Thanks to his metaphysical philosophizing, Antahlyzah’s music is reminiscent of that of Killah Priest, The Ceremonial Gifted has echoes of acts like Wu-Tang Clan and X-Clan too, with clear 90s Hip Hop vibes in its sound all the way through. This album may be a slow-burner that requires multiple listens to really be able to appreciate it but The Ceremonial Gifted deserves the attention – listeners who like their Hip Hop conscious, intelligent, and positive will find a lot to unpack and enjoy here.

Release date: January 15, 2021. 

Brian Bars Burns & Ollie Dodge - Dynamic Duo

the best hip hop albums of 2021

New Orleans-raised, Cali-based emcee Brian Bars Burns teamed up with producer Ollie Dodge for their collaborative project Dynamic Duo. There’s nothing complicated about Dynamic Duo, and there doesn’t have to be – this album offers close to an hour of dope beats and bars: what more do you want? Ollie Dodge’s beats, cuts, and samples are great, and Brian Bars Burns is a real lyricist – just check out a track like “Bar Maniacs”, which features guest rhymes from Harry Mack and A.F.R.O., to know what this album is all about. Dynamic Duo = 100% pure uncut Hip Hop.

Release date: January 15, 2021. 

2nd Generation Wu - Hereditary

2nd Generation Wu - Hereditary

2nd Generation Wu consists of iNTeLL (U-God’s son), PXWER (Method Man’s son), Sun God (Ghostface Killah’s son) & Young Dirty Bastard (Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s son) – the group name as well as the title of their collective debut album an obvious nod to their familial ties. Hereditary was originally released on the 8th of November 2020 with ten tracks, but the album was soon retracted from streaming services as most songs wouldn’t play. The album has been redone since, adding an additional 5 extra songs to the tracklist.

Maybe it’s not fair to compare the debut of the sons with the classic debut of their fathers, but since they themselves so obviously elected to emphasize the family connection a comparison is inevitable. Of course, this album never reaches the levels of the epicness their fathers’ debut Enter The Wu-Tang (1993) achieved. And realistically it never could, knowing the monumental Enter The Wu-Tang is one of the best and most influential Hip Hop albums of all time.

Hereditary is a solid album though, and a worthy addition to the Wu-legacy. iNTeLL, PXWER, Sun God, and Young Dirty Bastard are talented emcees, and it’s fun to hear their fathers’ voices and styles in their respective flows. The album was produced by a host of different producers, none of them with RZA’s magic touch, unfortunately. The beats are decent for the most part, but most of them miss that Wu-Tang ‘punch’ early RZA is celebrated for – there are some definite lulls in the tracklist, especially in the middle and towards the end of the album.

That said, there is plenty to enjoy on Hereditary. Because of samples taken from classic Wu-Tang Clan songs, tracks like “Wrong Route”, “Pxrokinesis” (featuring Masta Killa’s son Pxro), “Blockchain”, and the single “7.O.D.” have a recognizable Wu-Tang vibe to them. Other standouts include the dope instrumental intro track “Royal Genetics”, “Guess Who? “, “From The Isles Of Staten”, and “Goldn Meathooks” (with Inspectah Deck). There are a couple of weaker tracks too (like the meandering “Alotta Loot”, “Express Power”, and “With This”), but overall Hereditary is well-worth checking out, a must for Wu-Tang diehards at least.

Release date: January 14, 2021. 

Nyck Caution - Anywhere But Here

the best hip hop albums of 2021

Pro Era’s Nyck Caution delivered a middle-of-the-road Hip Hop album with Anywhere But Here. There was potential for greatness here because Nyck Caution is an excellent lyricist – his flow is great, and his personal, introspective lyrics are listen-worthy from start to finish. The album is brought down some by the instrumentals though, the beats all are a little bit too boring and unmemorable to really do justice to Nyck Caution’s rhymes. Also, Nyck Caution’s fondness for R&B-ish hooks on a lot of songs here can be an annoyance (unless you share that fondness, of course).

Anywhere But Here is a short album at 36 minutes, but it feels longer – never a good sign. A bunch of features from the likes of Joey Bada$$, Denzel Curry, Kota the Friend, and CJ Fly (among others) add extra flavor to Anywhere But Here, but not enough to make the album especially memorable. Now, all this may sound more negative than the album really deserves – the lyrics on Anywhere But Here are pretty strong, and the instrumentals are easy to get into. But just because Anywhere But Here can potentially be appreciated by anybody, the album might end up being ignored by everybody.

Release date: January 15, 2021. 

Illa Styles - Mind Your Reality

hip hop 2021

Illa Styles is an artist from Richmond, Virginia (by way of Philadelphia). His Mind Your Reality is a short but strong project, with thoughtful lyrics and dope beats & flows from start to finish.

Release date: January 11, 2021. 

Passalacqua - Passalacqua LP

the best hip hop albums of 2021

Passalacqua is a Detroit indie alt-rap duo consisting of emcees Blaksmith and Mister. Passalacqua LP is the culmination of a ten-year partnership – ten years during which the duo dropped a number of great projects, but arguably none as good as this one. The genre-boundaries pushing Passalacqua LP is unlike any other Hip Hop album you will come across this year. Produced in its entirety by fellow Detroitian Zach Shipps, this album is deeply layered musically as well as lyrically – there’s nothing generic about this project. Not for everybody, but listeners with an appreciation for beautifully crafted left-field Hip Hop will find a keeper in Passalacqua LP.

Release date: January 11, 2021. 

Kev Brown & J Scienide - Stray From The Pack

Stray From The Pack is a nice collaborative effort from Kev Brown and J Scienide, following the equally solid Drum Machine Tape Cassette (2019). Stray From The Pack is tailormade for the HHGA demographic: dope beats, dope rhymes, and dope cuts by DJ Jon Doe – everything about this project has that golden era vibe, down to the cover art even. This is a great little project, biggest complaint is a common one these days: at barely 30 minutes Stray From The Pack just is too short.

Release date: January 8, 2021. 

Son Of Tony - Son On A Sunday

the best hip hop albums of 2021

Son Of Tony emerges from the Buffalo, New York underground with his debut project Son On A Sunday. With dark, atmospheric beats and hard-hitting street rhymes by Son Of Tony and guest vocals by the likes of Skyzoo, Mickey Factz, Ren Thomas, and Tish Hyman, this is a solid little album that will especially resonate with fans of East Coast underground street rap.

Release date: January 8, 2021. 

YUNGMORPHEUS - States Of Precarity

Los Angeles-based rapper YUNGMORPHEUS has been very prolific in recent times, dropping a number of projects with thought-provoking and often provocative lyrical content. States Of Precarity is another quality YUNGMORPHEUS release, albeit one for a niche audience. YUNGMORPHEUS has something to say, and his lo-fi jazzy beats gel well with his chilled-out flow and delivery. Those who have never listened to him before but who dig music from regular YUNGMORPHEUS collaborators like VIK, Pink Siifu, Fly Anakin, Koncept Jack$on, and Ohbliv, should go and listen to States Of Precarity.

Release date: January 8, 2021. 

7 Oddz & DJ-M1 - Seven vs One

Chicago crew Seven Oddities (DreamTek, Tony Patagonia, Al Tamper, Billie Dee Boodah, DoomsDay Araiza, Roy Hobes, and MC Clever One) teamed up with DJ M1, who took care of all production and cuts on Seven vs One. Solid 90s-centric underground boom-bap – nothing special, but enjoyable enough nonetheless.

Release date: January 7, 2021. 

Reasun- Resolve (The Mixtape)

best hip hop 2021

Reasun is an emcee repping Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and his debut project Resolve (The Mixtape) is a mixtape in the truest sense – 14 songs mixed into one long 44-minute track by DJ Thermos. Nice.

Release date: January 7, 2021. 

ethemadassassin - Bear Handz 5: Gram Newton

ethemadassassin - Bear Handz 5: Gram Newton

With 9 albums, 2 EP’s, numerous international collaborations, and over 15 years in the music industry, Los Angeles (by way of North Carolina) emcee ethemadassassin is the physical embodiment of dedication, perseverance, independent artistry, and hustle.

Bear Handz 5: Gram Newton is a great project (albeit a bit short at just over half an hour, and with 4 skits out of the 11 tracks). The beats are of the timeless boom-bap sort, and ethemadassassin’s throwback flow is dope. 

Release date: January 5, 2021. 

Taiyamo Denku & John Doe - Bars Bury Them

Prolific Milwaukee-based emcee Taiyamo Denku teamed up with John Doe for Bars Bury Them. The project is entirely produced by German producer Bo Faat – this is the third full-length collaborative project from Taiyamo Denku and Bo Faat in less than a year. Bars Bury Them is solid Taiyamo Denku – while he rarely comes with something truly memorable, he never really disappoints either. This is a solid throwback boom-bap project, good enough to deserve an honorable mention here.

Release date: January 1, 2021. 

Lukah - When The Black Hand Touches You

Memphis, Tenessee emcee Lukah’s When The Black Hand Touches You is a dope follow-up to its (slightly superior) predecessor Chickenwire (2018).  Lukah comes with 16 tracks on When The Black Hand Touches You, musically strong with atmospheric sample-based production and with hard-hitting street raps in the vein of Griselda and Freddie Gibbs. A lot of albums like this one drop these days, and even if When The Black Hand Touches You has nothing to make it really stand out from the crowd, because of its consistency it will comfortably end up on the higher end of this subgenre’s spectrum in 2021. Fans of Freddie Gibbs’s music better not sleep on When The Black Hand Touches You.  

Release date: January 1, 2021. 

Meph Luciano - Annihilation

the best hip hop albums of 2021

Meph Luciano is a Dallas, Texas-based emcee/producer. Annihilation was produced by Chim Beats, and features vocals by Melp Luciano of course, along with underground emcees like Casablanca, DRE Colombian Raw, Tito The Czar, and a host of others. Annihilation is deliciously dark and atmospheric, a great addition to the rap-noir subgenre.

Release date: January 1, 2021. 

The Primeridian & Rashid Hadee - Prime Diesel

ther best hip hop albums of 2021

Rashid Hadee is an emcee from Chicago. For Prime Diesel, he teamed up with The Primeridian, a trio of emcees – Tree, Simeon, and Race – also hailing from Chicago.

Prime Diesel is a dope album, with close to an hour of smooth, soulful boom-bap instrumentals and fine grown-man lyrics from Rashid Hadee, The Primeridian, and guests like Pugs Atomz, Neak, and Philmore Greene (among others). The album offers nothing especially memorable maybe, but fans of mature 90s-centric Hip Hop will find plenty to enjoy on Prime Diesel.

Release date: January 1, 2021. 

DJ Cosm - Natural Within

Natural Within is a charming little project from Canadian DJ Cosm. 10 dope tracks, no filler, no interludes, no skits, or any such nonsense – nothing but smooth 90s-centric boom-bap beats and great features from artists like Sadat X, El Da Sensei, Prince Po, Starvin B, Chris Orrick, Daniel Son, Skanks the Rap Martyr, Anti Lilly, (and lots of others).

Natural Within is a consistent presentation throughout, but a special mention goes out to “Frank Sisson’s” a track with an infectious beat and with dope rhymes from an emcee named Belvedere Spinello, whose flow sounds like a blend of Grand Puba, Chubb Rock, and Pete Rock in their best days. Natural Within is kind of generic maybe, but totally enjoyable – fans of that 90s type Hip Hop can’t go wrong with this DJ Cosm project.

Release date: January 1, 2021. 

Observe Since 98 - Le Dernier Royaume

observe since 98

While the likes of Roc Marciano and the Griselda family still reign supreme in the rap-noir/street-rap subgenre of Hip Hop, there are plenty of others who consistently come with fire. Loretta Records founder Observe Since 98 is such an artist. Le Denier Royaume follows Observe Since 98’s “Savage” trilogy (which started with Portrait of A Savage (2018), followed by the sequels Return Of The Savage and Royaume Du Sauvage in 2019 and 2020 respectively).

Le Denier Royaume is Observe Since 98’s best project yet. He has his own unique sound, with dark atmospheric beats and loops laced with obscure samples taken from vintage French recordings. Le Denier Royaume very much is a producer’s album – this project is much more about the instrumentals than it is about the lyrics, even if there’s nothing wrong with the vocal contributions of guests like Jay NiCE, Knowledge the Pirate, Chris Skillz, Ankhlejohn, Planet Asia, All Hail YT, Monday Night, M.A.V., Pounds, Napoleon Da Legend, (and others).

Le Denier Royaume was released on January 1st of 2021, signifying a great start of the Hip Hop year.

Release date: January 1, 2021. 

R​.​A​.​P. Ferreira - Bob's Son (R​.​A​.​P. Ferreira In The Garden Level Cafe Of The Scallops Hotel)

rap ferreira

R.A.P. Ferreira, the artist formerly known as Milo, starts off the year strong with this solid follow-up to Purple Moonlight Pages, R.A.P. Ferreira’s excellent 2020 jazz-hop album. Bob’s Son is just as loungy, and even more unorthodox in its song structures – the whole project produced entirely by R.A.P. Ferreira himself under his Scallops Hotel alias.

The title of the album refers to mid-20th century beat poet and surrealist Bob Kaufman, not for no reason of course: the poetic lyrics on Bob’s Son can be seen as an homage to Kaufman’s work. R.A.P. Ferreira’s lyrics are characteristically impenetrable, but they are delivered with his usual confidence and charm – so even if it’s not always crystal clear what he’s talking about, his vocals are a pleasure to listen to.

Despite the experimental, at times even kind of chaotic character of the album, the mellow vibes of the instrumentals make it an easily digestible listen. Due to the album’s brevity – it runs for a mere 35 minutes – it does feel kind of lightweight though. And because it starts off better than it ends, the album is not as strong and well-rounded overall as Purple Moonlight Pages is. That said: Bob’s Son is a pretty good album – kind of weird, but charming all the way through.

Release date: January 1, 2021. 

Blu - God Is Good

Typically, we don’t include mixtapes or re-releases on our ‘best albums of the year’ lists, but this one is too good to ignore so it deserves a special mention. God is Good is unmixed and unmastered, but this ‘old’ Blu project is dope as f anyway. Originally titled TheGodLeeBarnesLP, the project was slated for a 2010 release, intended to be Blu’s highly anticipated sophomore solo album – but unfortunately, it ended up being one of the biggest ‘what could have beens’ of the decade when Blu lost his master files due to a hard drive crash.

So even if it will always be sad this album never got a proper release, we can be thankful for Blu electing to (re)release the raw version of TheGodLeeBarnesLP as God Is Good via his Bandcamp page – it definitely deserves attention even as unpolished as it is. The rough-around-the-edges low-quality sound gives off basement/demo tapes vibes, no doubt it will make old heads nostalgic for how Hip Hop was experienced in the good ol’ days.

At 70 minutes God Is Good is a long listen and here and there it meanders, but that’s OK – this is pure uncut raw lo-fi underground boom-bap that should please more Hip Hop listeners than just Blu fans.

Release date: January 1, 2021. 

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